The message that follows was used numerous times in the revival meetings. Of the twenty-three times I preached it (from July 13, 1967 until October 31, 1983), sixteen were saved and scores of believers came forward to rededicate their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Seldom has a sermon spoken to my own heart more than this one. Frankly, everyone including preachers and teachers need to be reminded that there is an eternity. Not only will everyone who hears our message be in eternity, we ourselves will soon be there.
As you read this sermon, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring its truths alive for you personally and that He will use it to let you see yourself as God sees you IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY and that you will draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ in your daily walk.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15
Today, I have just one proposition to make and it is this:
- after your spirit wings its way out of your body,
- after the casket lid has been closed
- after the pallbearers have borne your body in their solemn process
- after you have been taken to the cemetery
- after you have been lowered into the confines of the grave
- after the clods have rumbled ominously upon the coffin top
- after the last tear has fallen and the last muffled sob heard
- after the last mourner has turned aside from the graveside and your body lies alone
Where will you be in eternity?
Where will you be in eternity? This is the most pertinent and powerful question that presses upon the human soul. Let's consider it because of the nature of life--transitory and temporary. Let's us consider it because of the nature of eternity--permanent and unending. Notice the question is not "Where will you spend eternity?" Eternity never ends and you cannot spend it ever. The question is "Where will you be in eternity?"
From long ago comes the story of the first Christian missionaries who came to England. He penetrated as far as Northumberland where Ethelbert was king. The king heard of the missionaries and wasn't quite sure they should be allowed to preach to his people. So, he called together a great number of lords and nobles to debate the issue. They met by night around a long oak table in a great baronial hall under the flames of torches that played weirdly upon the massive beams that held up the roof. As they discussed the subject, suddenly from the open window at one end of the hall, out of darkness, a swallow flew into the light. It flashed across the long room, paused for a second in its flight, then darted out an open window at the other end of the hall into the darkness. Then one of the nobles rose and said, "My Lord, life is like the flight of that swallow. We come out of the darkness into the light of life for a few moments and then fly into the darkness again. If the Christian missionaries can tell us anything to settle the mystery of whence we came and whither we goest, they should be permitted to preach."
The GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST has the answer to the question from whence we came and whither we goeth. It has the answer of the mystery of eternity past, to the riddle of life present, and the mystery of eternity. In the light of the Word of God, let's explore the answer. There are several points I wish to make as you pray for me and as the Holy Spirit leads.
There is an eternity
The psalmist caught a glimpse of the nature of eternity when he said, "For everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." (Psalm 91:2b). The exegesis of this is simply, "From vanishing point to vanishing point, there is eternity." The vastness of the subject overwhelms our finite minds and we cannot comprehend it. Think on this fact, THERE IS AN ETERNITY!
We live our lives on a little island which we call time which is bounded by two vast seas of eternity. Let your mind go back into the unending recesses of time past. Then let your mind move into the future as far as you can imagine. When you mind can go no further, there is still eternity.
You must be in eternity somewhere
It is plainly stated in the Scripture: "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Not only do we know this is true from the Bible's declaration, we know it is true as we look around us each day.
Solomon caught a glimpse and said, "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7). The wise woman of Tekoa said, "We must die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." The psalmist observed, "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?"
Death means separation. When death comes, the real person (spirit-soul) leaves the body and moves into eternity. You and I will be alive forever in eternity. There will never be a time when the soul is not alive. Man, once born, is indestructible. This body may be destroyed, but one million years from this day, you will be alive somewhere.
After the stars have burned out and turned to smoldering ashes, after the mountains have crumbled to dust, after the sun and moon have fallen from their sprockets, you and I will be alive in eternity.
We contemplate on what happens when the shadows lengthen and life's sun is set and its short days have passed and we enter eternity.
You can know where you will be in eternity
God, in His goodness, has given us the Bible to provide information we need about eternity. The aged John wrote, "These things have I written unto you that ye might know ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).
The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, knew: "I go to my Father."
The thief on the cross who cried for mercy knew: "This day," Jesus said, "thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
Paul, the Apostle, knew, and said, "If this earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a home, not made with human hands, eternal in the Heavens . . . to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:1,8). He shared with the Philippian believers writing from his prison cell in Rome, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain . . .I have a desire to depart to be with Christ which is far better" (Philippians 1:21, 23).
Christmas Evans, the great Welsh evangelist, came to the end. His eyes fluttered wearily open. He smiled and said, "Drive on!"
Dwight L. Moody knew. He said, "Someday you will read in the newspapers that D. L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Do not believe it. I shall be alive more than ever before. I shall have gone up higher. That's all. I was born in the flesh in 1836, of the Spirit 1857. That which is born of the flesh must die, but that which is born of the spirit shall never die." In 1899, he was preaching in Kansas City in late November. He became ill and was returned to his Northfield home in Massachusetts. On December 23, he drew his last breath and said his last words: "My coronation day is here." He knew.
A pastor related how he stood as one of his faithful saints made her exodus. She said to her husband, "Do you see Him? He's come."
The call to eternity will come soon
Men pamper their bodies as if they were the permanent aspect of life. But twenty-five years from now, many of us will be gone. Fifty years from now, few will be here. Time is passing. It is fleeting.
You will be in eternity in one of two places
You will be in eternity in hell, or optionally, in heaven. If you choose God's way of salvation, it will be heaven; otherwise, automatically, in hell.
There are only two roads to travel--each leading in different directions.
1. Hell. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "The wicked shall be turned into hell" (Psalm 9:17).
Most of what we know about the nature and characteristics of both heaven and hell come directly from Jesus Himself. Let us look first at the characteristics of hell:
A. A place of separation from God. Death is the separation of spirit-soul from the body. Hell is the separation of the spirit-soul from Jesus. To the rich man, Abraham explained, "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us" (Luke 16:26). Someone has suggested that over the entry door to hell is fixed a sign: ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. So it is.
B. A place of a gnawing, biting, blighting, blasting, driving memory. The rich man who â€œlifted up his eyesâ€ in hell, and who wanted Abraham to â€œsend Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water [literally, a little moisture, a little wet stuff] and cool my tongueâ€ (Luke 16:23-24) took his memory to hell with him. When he made requests, Abraham said, â€œSon, rememberâ€ (Luke 16:25). In a sense, the rich man only took one thing with himâ€”his memory. As he looked back, there was no peace, no good, no hope.
C. A place of torment. The rich man declared "for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24). And so he was. When Jesus explained about hell, He noted that it is a place "where the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth not" (Mark 9:43-44). Actually, He used the term "Gehenna" to describe what hell is like. This word, very familiar to His listeners, referred to the city dump outside the southeast wall of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnon, where fires burned day and night to consume the garbage, a place frequented by snapping, snarling, wild dogs and scavengerous birds fighting each other for scraps of food. Since there was moist food particles in the dump, maggots formed. Carcasses of dead animals and unclaimed bodies of criminals were deposited there. "Gehenna" was a place of horror for every person in the city. The description in the last book of the Bible is vivid as those going into hell were "tormented with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 14:10).
Someone said that he did not want to go to hell because the climate was terrible--always hot and dry. Further, he would have the worst people in the world as his neighbors. The noise decibels are high and constant.
Hell is at the end of a godless life. Men do go to hell. Hell is a place of punishment.
2. Heaven. The Bible does not tell us everything we might want to know about Heaven's contents; rather, we are told what is not there in that land where pilgrims exchange their cross for a crown.
A. No night. Night speaks of mystery, dread, fear. Often, emotions become exaggerated at night. It is when the fever often rises and we wish for the day. Those things which night suggests will be gone.
B. No more sea. Sea separated John, the Beloved Disciple, from home and friends. In Heaven, there be no more separation. There will be a glad, glorious reunion day once we cross over and the day will never end as spirit-soul moves into a new home. Eyes will never grow dim.
C. No more pain, death, or tears. "God Himself shall wipe away the tears" (Revelation ). There shall be no more death, neither sorrowing or crying. Neither shall there be any more pain for the former things have passed away. Simply, the things that cause tears and heartaches will be gone forever.
One last thing about Heaven is wrapped up in the term which Jesus used to comfort His disciples just hours before He left them--"In My Father's house" (John 14:1). Heaven is home. Look! Let your mind run back along Reminiscent Trail. Stand once again with familiar faces--father, mother, brothers, sisters--at the childhood home. Mine was in the bend of the river in East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. How comforting it was when strangers came into the bend of the river to wrap arms around Dad's legs or stand behind Mom. Permeating the atmosphere was safety and security. GOING TO HEAVEN IS LIKE GOING HOME.
What you do with Jesus will determine where you will be in eternity
The issue is not what you do with the church, not what you do with the preacher's invitation. The issue is not your good works. The issue is what you do with God's provision, His only way, His only road. You can go to Heaven without health, wealth, friends, influence, but not without Christ. The greatest sin in the world is the sin of unbelief--which is the failure to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. He offers the gift of salvation to you. When you accept the gift, the Holy Spirit moves into your spirit. That which was dead to God will come alive to God. You will have been born again. Your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. You will go to heaven when you die. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).
Paul cried out to the Roman believers, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). If you choose God's way of salvation, you can be in eternity in Heaven.
But you must seek Him in life, for in death heads do not think, hearts do not love, hands do not work. The one purpose in life is to get ready to meet God. There is no intermediate state for you to enter and then get ready. You must get ready here.
A preacher became lost in a rugged area of West Texas. Finally, he came to a farmhouse and knocked on the door. A freckled-faced lad came to the door and the man asked him how to get to his destination. "Mister," said the boy, "Go right down the road two miles. The road will be pretty rough and sandy, but you'll get through all right. Then you will come to a cemetery. Just go right through the cemetery and on the other side you'll find a smooth, paved road which will lead you to your destination. It's a pretty rough road between here and the cemetery, but when you get to the cemetery, your troubles will be over." So it is for the believer.
The late Dr. Len Broughton, pastor Baptist Tabernacle, Atlanta, used to tell the story of a young man out west who bet some other boys he could stop a train in a novel way. Taking his handkerchief in his hand, he jumped upon the tracks and as the train came around the bend, waved it, and shouted, "Stop!" The engineer saw him and called for brakes to be applied. The mighty train came to a stop. The young man ran off into the woods, saying not a word.
The next day, he did the same thing. Then the third day came and some challenged him to do it again and he accepted. This time an elderly man came up and said, "Young man, you better stop playing the fool." "Well," said the lad, "I'm going to stop after this time."
So out he went. He did as before, but this time the engineer failed to get the train stopped and he was pitched twenty feet down an embankment. When the spectators gathered around and as he died, his last words uttered in a low, struggling voice, "I'm going to stop after this time."
You have heard the message. The Holy Spirit is speaking. What are you going to do with Jesus? What you do with Jesus determines where you will be in eternity. You should settle today because tomorrow may be too late.