Don't Be Surprised (3): It Pays to be Saved
November 15, 2015
Read Lu 13:22-30 – Ever notice that Jesus never watered down His message to avoid offending people. He made them feel bad enough to repent or furious enough to reject. But He clarified the difference as no one in history. Repent or perish. With eternity at stake He never beat around the bush. He knows that in the end, many who think they are in, like the Pharisees, won’t be. So, He lovingly warns those rejecting Him of the consequences.
Someone asked in v. 23, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” He noted those who are saved come thru the narrow door of repentance. Most choose door # 1. His shocking sermon outline: I. Few Will Be Saved II. Many Will be Lost III. It Pays to be Saved. Today we’ll see it pays to enter the narrow door. It may seem restrictive now – but believe me, it won’t in 100 years, 1000 years, 1,000,000 years. Jesus contrasts 2 alternatives the only two that exist. Once we die, it is one or the other. There is no door # 3.
I. The Revulsion of Hell
A. It’s Real – We don’t talk much about hell today. Too awful to be true. But Jesus talked about it – more than anyone. V. 28: “In that place.” Hell is a place – not a symbol or metaphor. If heaven is a place, then hell is just as much a place. The Greek actually says, “There”. For some things there is no there, there. But Jesus says hell is there; it is real. Awful as it is, it exists.
It is a created place. Mt 23:41 Jesus calls it, “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Unfortunately, many will join them there. So is the fire real? No one can be sure. If it is symbolic it is indicating a place of terrible suffering. Whatever hell is, it is real; it is awful and it is forever. In Mark 9:48 Jesus calls it a place “‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” If we had even a small glimpse of hell we would all be on our knees before Christ begging for mercy. That’s why Jesus gives this glimpse -- so our heart will open to Him. He warns in Mark 9:43, “43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.” It’s real; it’s inescapable; it’s permanent. “You’d be better to go thru life crippled or blind than to end up in hell.” It’s that real!
B. It’s Regretful – Can you imagine infinite regret? Well, that’s hell. V. 28, “In that place there will be weeping.” There will be no end to the tears there -- tears of remorse, shock, pain and surprise on the part of those who thought they were going to heaven. Thought they had the bases covered only to find that without Christ, they are without hope. They will remember the day they could have said Yes, but instead said Later, or No!
About 3 years ago, 1:00 one morning, Jeffrey Giuliano, a 5th grade teacher in New Fairfield, CT got a call from his sister who lived next door saying she feared an intruder. Jeffrey got his pistol and went to investigate. Shortly he encountered someone dressed in black with a ski mask who attacked him. He shot and killed his assailant. But when the mask was removed, it was his own 15-year-old son. No one knows what the boy was up to, but Dad is devastated. He said, “If I could just live that one moment over.” But the moment is gone.
Hell will be like that. “If only’s” will bounce off the walls for all eternity. Spurgeon once reminded an audience that having heard the gospel that day, they would never have an excuse. “If you are lost and cast away, you will have to bear all the blame and all the tortures of conscience yourself, forever reflecting, “I have destroyed myself; I have made a suicide of my soul; I have been my own destroyer.” The time to repent is now.
C. It’s Raging – V. 28, “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.” Unbelievers will see believers in glory prior to being cast out and it will cause “gnashing of teeth.” That’s a term that indicates extreme anger. Job 16:9, “He has torn me in his wrath and hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me.” Imagine a caged lion, being tormented by a teaser. He bares his teeth in a roar of anger.
When Stephen was arrested for preaching Jesus, he preached an amazing sermon, closing with the accusation that they have murdered their own Messiah. The result is in Acts 7:54: “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth (same phrase) at him.” They hated him, just as those in hell will hate the very idea that Jesus would refuse their good works and cast them into hell, even as they weep with regret.
In Mt 7:22 Jesus depicts people as begging to stay in heaven based on all the things they’ve done for him – “did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” They want to stay on their terms – and when they can’t, they gnash their teeth in anger at the God. Hell is a place of raging, hatred of a God who dares to refuse those who reject His Son. Like Judas, they are remorseful, but not repentant. They hate God. That’s what hell will be like.
Look what Jesus says at end of v. 27: “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’” How can Jesus say that? These are Pharisees, not terrorists and rapists. Surely they are not evildoers! But they are, Beloved, because they insist that their good is better than that of the Christ who died for them. They refuse God’s verdict in Isa 64:6, “and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” They are the worst kind of evil-doers because they declare God a liar. His words, “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’” will resonate thru their minds for all eternity and they will gnash their teeth at the memory.
D. It’s Wretched – The worst part of all – removal from God’s presence! V. 27: “Depart from me.” That’s the end of hope. Ever hear anyone say, “You can have heaven. I’ll take my friends in hell?” Hell as a big frat party. Won’t be like that, Beloved. It’s a place of severe loneliness. Mt 8:12 says unbelievers “will be thrown into the outer darkness.” No light; no companionship; no friends! Just absolute aloneness – forever. No God or human contact forever. Most of us can’t stand to be alone for more than a few hours. The desolation of hell will be absolutely devastating. Wretched doesn’t even begin to describe it. People will be in hell because they insisted on being at the center of their own universe. In hell, that is exactly what they will have – they will be the center of a universe of their own making – absolutely alone because they are powerless to make anything. Hell is the ultimate demonstration of the bankruptcy of human arrogance.
Hell will be God giving people what they always wanted – a self-absorbed existence. But as philosopher Cornelius Plantinga reminds us, "The image of ourselves as center of the world is fantasy – even a form of madness… It's like pulling the plug on your own resuscitator." We are made for companionship; loneliness is a killer. Inger Stevens, TV actress – Farmer’s Daughter. She said, “Sometimes I get so lonely I could scream,” just before she took her own life. If it was that bad with people all around, imagine being engulfed in total darkness, with no God and no one. Just unendingly alone!
II. The Rapture of Heaven
V. 29: “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Heaven in full bloom. The contrast with hell could not be greater. Yet the Pharisees would have hated this picture. Abe, Isaac and Jacob will be there. But they’re not! Worse, many hated Gentiles are there. That was unthinkable. They thought keeping the Old Covenant law was the way in. They’d missed it was NC repentant and cleansed hearts that let people in. It was never about works; it was always about grace. It is repentance that moves the last to the head of the line, and it is lack of repentance that moves the first to the back of the line. And Jesus is saying, “Heaven awaits those who believe; hell awaits those who reject.” So, what is heaven like? Let’s just consider 4 great characteristics:
A. No Sin – Hell is filled with sinners and the sin never ends. But in heaven sin is done away forever. I Jn 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now (it’s great already, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet), and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Does Jesus ever sin? No – and neither will you when you are finally truly like Him. John further describes heaven in Rev 21:27, “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.” Imagine living in sinless perfection! All the effects of sin will be gone too. No disease, no infirmity, no physical disability of any kind.
B. No Sorrow – Imagine no sorrow. Ever. No disappointment. No pain. No suffering. No regret. That’s heaven, too. Rev 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” There will be no weeping there. Nothing to cause it. Helen Keller – blind and deaf from the time she was 19 months old. Learned to communicate brilliantly via touch and eventually speech. She was once asked, “Do you believe in life after death?” I love her answer: “Most certainly. It is no more than passing from one room into another.” Then she was quiet for a moment before adding: “But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other – room – I shall be able to see.” It’s true. There’s no sorrow there!
C. No Spite – No gnashing of teeth in heaven. No spite. No hatred. That believer who has all those rough edges, the one you can’t stand, the one you never want to be around – you’re going to love them there. You’ve heard the little ditty. “To live above with saints we love, Well that will be glory. But to live below with saints we know / Well, that’s another story.” Listen, you’re going to love them there; might as well get started now when it could pay some dividends. There will be no spite there – only love.
Above all we will love Jesus. We will see that He was right every time we doubted. There will be no regrets there. No “what if’s” or “if only’s” there. As the old song said, “Heaven is a wonderful place, Filled with glory and grace. I’m going to see my Savior’s face. / Heaven is a wonderful place.”
D. No Solitude – If hell is a place of utter darkness and devastating loneliness, heaven is just the opposite. Rev 21:23, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.” No night. All light. The light that the world rejected will light the universe. We will all glory in it. Never darkness.
And companionship – with Jesus, loved ones, friends, people we influenced. And there will be Peter and John and Paul and Moses and Abraham. Mom and Dad. What conversations we will have. Look at our passage – Lu 13:29, “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Lots of surprises there – converted Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists. The first will be last and the last first. Rev 7:9, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” There will be no solitude there. And all there know this: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Woody Allen once said, “There may be an afterlife, but no one will know where it’s being held.” He couldn’t have been more wrong. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” At the end of the darkest day in human history, there was that poor, lost thief walking the streets of heaven with Jesus Himself – while his companion was in the darkness of an eternal Godless existence. Jesus drew this contrast, not me. He did it because He wants all of us to be there in heaven with Him and all the redeemed, not there in hell utterly and forever alone. What a contrast. Don’t you want heaven? Don’t you want Him?
Conc – I had a good friend who was president of Biola University for 25 years. We used to play b-ball together, altho he was a little better – high school player of the year in SoCal in 1953. Later we taught on the same faculty. He died a few years ago, only 72, sudden heart attack. Always had a keen sense of humor. Had a tape played at his memorial as tho talking from heaven. Let me give you a few excerpts. “Dear Anna Belle, I love you. It has been cold there in my shadow as I have had all the glory and you the strain. But nothing significant would have been accomplished had you not been the wind beneath my wings, and I thank God for you.
You [all] might think it is a bit strange listening to me now, but wasn’t it Dwight L. Moody who said, “One day you’re going to read that Dwight L. Moody is dead. Don’t believe it.” And he was right. I’m more alive now than I have ever been. It’s so wonderful where I am. . . . The city is fascinating. . . . There’s no need for sun or moon because the glory of the Lord illuminates every single part of the city and we walk by that glorious light. And it is always day. Besides not having any night, there is nothing here that is unclean and no one who practices abominations or lying. There are no more tears; not death; no mourning, and no more crying or pain.
Oh, and the music. I thought the Biola chorale was fantastic . . . but let me tell you, it is unbelievable here. When you hear that voice of the great multitude singing praises to our wonderful Lord and Savior, it is as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder. . . . When I’m not worshipping, I’m asking questions. All those hours as an undergraduate in the Biola residence halls, staying up late to discuss the sovereignty of God and the free will of men and women! The answers are so simple once you get here. Oh yes, and predestination! Wish you could have seen the twinkle in John Calvin’s eyes as we discussed it. I was even able to get five minutes with Moses. Well, I really don’t know if it was five minutes because a day here is as a thousand years. It just seemed like five minutes. Anyway I asked him about Genesis 1 and 2. It really happened just as he wrote it.
I’m in no pain – just overwhelming joy. Believe me, it’s tearless here. And it’s all true – every word in the blessed book. Trust it, and trust our beloved Savior. I’ll see you at the trumpet blast. Wow! You should see the size of the trumpets they have ready. Or if you too should pass through the valley of the shadow of death before He returns, I’ll meet you here. And if you happen to be listening to this and have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, oh, I urge you to do so today. What better time to number your days and apply your hearts to the wisdom of the good news of Jesus Christ than at a service like this. I want to see you again. I love you. Good-by for now.” You say, “Is it that real?” Absolutely, Beloved. But you have to enter thru the narrow door – the narrow door that is Jesus Himself. It’s not just the narrow way; it’s the only way. Let’s pray.