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Jesus' Last Words - Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise - Part 3

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
October 28, 2022 7:00 am

Jesus' Last Words - Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise - Part 3

So What? / Lon Solomon

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October 28, 2022 7:00 am

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Good morning. Good to see you. Welcome again. Welcome to all you guys in Overflow. We're glad you're here today. And if you brought a Bible, I'd like you to open it with me to Luke chapter 23, third book in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke.

Luke chapter 23 will be coming there in just a couple of minutes. Now, I don't know how many of you are familiar with the name, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross, but Dr. Ross wrote a book in 1969 entitled On Death and Dying. And this book is a study of the emotional process that people go through when they're dying and they know they're dying. And she found something very interesting when she did this book. She found that this process that people go through when they're dying is exactly the same process that people go through whenever they're dealing with any serious loss or any serious grief in their life.

Today we refer to this process as the four stages of grief. And if you've ever had any grief counseling or if anyone you know has ever had any grief counseling, then they have been counseled on the basis of this woman's work because her work forms the basis for modern psychology when it comes to dealing with people who are coping with great losses in their life. Now, something about Dr. Kubler Ross most people don't know is that after doing her book, she became extremely interested in people who had had near-death experiences. And since 1969 she has actually interviewed personally over 20,000 people between the ages of two and 99 who have had near-death experiences. Here's her conclusion and I quote, up until I did these studies I had absolutely no belief in an afterlife.

The data, however, has convinced me. Now she says, I have no shadow of a doubt that there is a life after death, end of quote. Folks, that's what we're going to talk about today. We're going to talk about life after death. We're going to talk about the afterlife. Remember we're in a four-part series entitled Jesus' Last Words.

I told you that Jesus said seven things while He hung on the cross and we've chosen four of them to be part of this series. We've already done number one. Father, forgive them.

They know not what they do. We've already done number two. I am thirsty and today we're doing number three.

I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise. So let's look here in Luke 23 beginning at verse 33. When they came to the place called the skull, there they crucified Jesus along with the robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. And the people stood by watching and the Jewish religious leaders sneered at Him. They said, He saved others so let Him save Himself if He's the Messiah.

The soldiers also mocked Him. They offered Him wine, vinegar and said, If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself. Jesus, as He hung on the cross, the Bible tells us, had hundreds of people around the foot of the cross, the crowd, the Jewish religious leaders, even the Roman soldiers who mocked Him and ridiculed Him and made fun of Him. In fact, friends, even one of the robbers on the cross did this. Look, verse 39. One of the thieves who hung on the cross also hurled insults at Him saying, Aren't you the Messiah?

So save yourself and us. But the other thief rebuked this man and said, Don't you fear God? We are being punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. And then this thief turned to Jesus and said, Jesus, please remember me when you come into your kingdom. Now, it's very interesting to me that all these hundreds of folks standing around the foot of the cross, Jesus had nothing to say to them at all. But Jesus had something to say to this thief.

He turned to Him and said, Look, today, He said, I tell you the truth. Today, you will be with me in paradise. Now, there are three things, three very important truths that we learn from Jesus' comment that we learn about how people go to heaven.

Let me tell you what they are. Number one, we learn that people go to heaven immediately upon leaving earth. Look what Jesus said. He said, Today, not tomorrow, not next week, not five months from now. Today, when you leave this earth, you will be with me in paradise. Now, there are some groups who would like to change what Jesus said to this thief. Some Catholics would like to have Jesus say, Today, you will be with me in purgatory. Seventh day Adventist wish he had said, Today, you will be with me in soul sleep. Hindus wish he had said, Today, you will be reincarnated. Buddhists wish he would have said, Today, you will be reabsorbed into the cosmic all. Secular humanists wish Jesus had said, Today, you will be blown out like a candle. And our Jewish friends wish he'd have said, Today, your guess is as good as mine where you're going to be because I don't really know either. But friends, Jesus didn't say any of these things.

What did he say? He said, Today, instantly, immediately, presto, you're going to be with me in heaven, in paradise. And the Bible is telling us that immediately upon leaving this earth, we go directly into the afterlife. There's nothing in between.

There's no annihilation. We go right, those of us who are going to heaven, we go right there. Look, 2 Corinthians chapter five, Paul writes for followers of Christ to be absent from the body, to go through physical death here, is to be present with the Lord. Where? In heaven.

There's nothing in between. The second thing we learn about going to heaven is that God gives heaven to people as a gift. Think about it now. This thief was nailed on a cross. He couldn't sing in the choir. He couldn't put any money in the offering plate. He couldn't attend church. He couldn't be baptized. He couldn't run rosary beads through his fingers. He couldn't fast for Yom Kippur. He couldn't do a pilgrimage to Mecca.

He couldn't bathe in the Ganges. He couldn't return the money he stole or do community service or become an Eagle Scout. He was nailed to a cross. And yet, in spite of this, Jesus granted this man eternal life. What this tells us, friends, is that good works, human performance, religious activity, these things have nothing to do with people getting into heaven, because you know what?

The thief nailed on the cross couldn't do any of these things. And yet he got into heaven. On the contrary, Jesus tells us here that going to heaven and getting eternal life is a gift.

It's a gift that he gives to people who do what the thief did, who turns to him in repentance, people who are willing to then show faith in him. Jesus gives heaven away as a gift. This is what the Bible says. Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8. It is by grace you have been delivered through faith. Heaven is not by works.

It is the gift of God. The third final thing we learn about going to heaven here is that it's never too late for people to go to heaven. I've had people over my years in ministry say, you know, Lon, it's too late for me. Man, I've done too much. I've gone too far.

I've messed up too bad. Hey, this guy that was being executed for crimes he had committed, very few people I know ever committed anything worthy of being executed, even if you did. You're just like the thief on the cross. It wasn't too late for him. He was still able to go to heaven in the last few hours of his life.

Friends, as long as there is breath in your body and as long as your heart is beating, it is never too late for you to turn to God like the thief did in repentance and faith and for God to give you eternal life. You say, Lon, that's wonderful. This is wonderful news. This means I can live any way I want to live up until the 11th hour and in an 11th hour I can accept Christ and still go to heaven. You say, is that not right?

Well, that's right. But it reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw not too long ago. The bumper sticker said this. It said a lot of people who plan to accept Christ in the 11th hour die at 10.30. Now, there is great theological truth in that bumper sticker because, friends, the Bible tells us we don't know for sure we're going to have an 11th hour.

You don't know that. In fact, the Bible says don't boast about tomorrow because you have no idea what tomorrow is going to bring. Friends, the only thing you and I know we have for sure is today, right now, this moment.

That's it. And that's why the Bible says, 2 Corinthians 6, today is the day of salvation. Because today is the only day you and I really are sure we've got.

And let me say, if you're here today and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way, man, you have got to listen to this. You know, if you wait for the 11th hour or some time in the future, you don't know you're going to have that time in the future. God says don't you wait.

If you want to do business with God and you want to lock down your eternal life, the time to do it is right now. Because you got now. You're sure of that.

You don't know anything about the future. So let's review, shall we? Dr. Kubler-Raw said, I have no shadow of a doubt there is a life after death. Jesus said, hey Dr. Kubler-Raw, you're right. Way to go.

Way to go. I could have saved you 20,000 interviews if you'd have just read the Bible and believed the Bible. But if you needed 20,000 interviews to be convinced good for you, when I said to the thief on the cross, today you'll be with me in paradise. I'm telling everybody, you know what Dr. Kubler-Raw, you're right. There is a life after death. He said, well on, that's great.

That's great. But you know what? This doesn't tell us anything about what life after death looks like. I mean, it just tells us it's out there. It doesn't explain to us what's really there. So where do we go in the Bible to get an explanation of what the afterlife really looks at?

Good question. And if you'll flip back a few pages in Luke's Gospel, back to Luke chapter 16, you'll find the most comprehensive description anywhere in the Bible of what the afterlife looks like. It's a story that Jesus tells. I don't believe it's a parable. I believe there were two real people in this story because Jesus even gives us the name of one of them, a fellow named Lazarus. So here we're going to look at this and we're going to find out some things about what the afterlife is really like.

Here we go, verse 19. There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus covered with sores and longing to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. What a contrast between these two guys. I mean, if these two men had been alive today, one of them would have been on the cover of Fortune 500 and the other one would have been sleeping on heating grates down in Washington, D.C.

These are our two characters. Verse 22. And the time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side.

Abraham's side was an ancient Jewish expression for heaven, for paradise. The man went to heaven. And the rich man also died and was buried. And in hell, where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. Now let's stop for a moment and ask the question, did the rich man go to hell because he was rich? Did Lazarus go to heaven because he was poor and a beggar?

No, folks. Remember Abraham, check it out in your Bible, Abraham was one of the richest men to ever live on the face of the earth and he was in heaven. Uh-uh. You see, the reason the rich man went to hell was because all of his money made him arrogant. All of his money made himself sufficient. All of his money made him unwilling to humble himself, admit his need, call on God for mercy, embrace Jesus as his personal savior. This is why he went to hell. It had nothing to do with his portfolio. Follow this logic if you will.

If the rich man had exhibited the same attitude towards God on earth that he was now exhibiting towards God in hell, he would have ended up in heaven just like Lazarus did. Did you guys follow that? Okay. You sure? You look a little glazed over. You all all right out there?

Okay, good. So, this is why he went to hell. Now, he's in hell. Lazarus is in heaven with Abraham. What follows is an amazing conversation.

Watch. Verse 24, and the rich man said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue because I am in agony in this fire. And Abraham said, you know, I'm sorry.

I really would like to help you. But there's a problem, and that is between you and us, a great chasm, a great gulf is fixed so that those who want to go from here over to help you, we can't. And those of you who are there, none of you can cross over to from there to where we are. Abraham says, man, I'm sorry. You know, too little too late. You had your chance back on earth to ask God for mercy, and you didn't. You had your chance back on earth to humble yourself before God, and you didn't. And now, dude, there is a great chasm fixed between you and us, and there's nothing I can do about it. There's nothing anybody can do about it.

I'm sorry, man. That's where you are. Well, the rich man said, then I beg you, Father Abraham, if I can't get out of here, at least send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Please let him go warn them so that they will not also come to this same place of torment where I am. Abraham said they have the Bible. Let them listen to it.

It tells them what they have to do. Oh, no, Father Abraham, the rich man says. Listen, you don't know my brothers. My brothers, they're arrogant like I was.

They're proud like I was. They are never going to humble themselves before God just because the Bible says so. But look what he says. He says if they could see a drop-dead miracle, if somebody could rise from the dead and go to them, they would repent. Abraham said, if your brothers do not listen to the Bible, they will not be convinced even if somebody rises from the dead. And may I remind you, somebody did rise from the dead, and still there were a whole bunch of people who weren't in the slightest bit interested. Now in this story, Jesus tells us four very important things about the afterlife.

And let me tell you what they are. Number one, we learn from this passage that after death, people keep their same identity. Notice here that Lazarus is still Lazarus. The rich man is still the rich man. They recognize each other in the afterlife. Notice 2,000 years after he died, Abraham was still Abraham.

The Bible tells us that after we die, for all eternity, you will still be you, and I will still be me, and we'll all recognize each other on the other side of the grave. You know about a number of years ago, my doctor put his arm around my shoulder, looked straight in my eyes, and said to me, son, you need to lose 35 pounds. Well I did. And I've kept them off. And that's why I've got the studly body I got today.

And you agree with that, and I know you do, and God bless you for agreeing. But you know, I've often thought when I get to heaven, so like what body am I going to get? Am I going to get my old fat pudgy body that I used to have, or do I get my spelt body of today? Well I don't know. Ladies, are you going to have your pre-childbirth body or your post-childbirth body?

I don't know. But one thing I know, I know whatever bodies you and I get, you're going to be you, and I'm going to be me, and we're all going to recognize each other for all of eternity. That's what the Bible says. The second thing the Bible tells us about life after death is that after death, people are conscious, awake, and aware for all eternity. Would you notice here that Lazarus and Abraham and the rich man, they could all see, they could all speak, they could all hear one another, they all desire things, they could all feel pain or pleasure, they all could remember the past, they could all think and speak logically. The rich man still remembered he had five brothers back on earth and in good Jewish form was trying to cut a deal for him, even in hell. That's him. Yeah, he could think.

He knew what was going on. You guys, any of you all remember the old original Monday night football when it first started? Remember who was on there? We had Frank Gifford, we had Howard Cousell, and we had Dandy Don Meredith.

Anybody, I hope some of you are old enough to remember that. And way back when Monday night football started, you know, I got to tell you, the game was inconsequential. Nobody watched for the game. They watched to see what these three guys would do.

These three guys were so entertaining that the game was secondary. And if you remember, every time a game would go out of reach, like there'd be an interception in the last 30 seconds or a touchdown in the last minute, Dandy Don, once the game was completely out of reach, would break out into singing an old country song. Do you remember? He'd sing, turn out the lights, the party's over. And people would raise beer cans around America and sing with him, turn out the lights, the party's over. You'd say, Lon, what are you talking about?

Well let me tell you what I'm talking about. That song, turn out the lights, the party's over. That song is the official scientific theory of the afterlife.

Annihilation, fade to black. Dr. Dorothy Whipple, Johns Hopkins said, and I quote, when you die you don't land anywhere, you just blow out the candles. That was the problem with that theory of the afterlife, and that is the person who runs the afterlife, Jesus, said this isn't true. The person who runs the afterlife said the contrary is actually true, that in the afterlife people are awake and aware and conscious and know what they're saying and doing for all eternity. The third thing we learn about the afterlife is that after death there are only two options, there are only two options where people land out there. There is a real place called heaven where the Bible tells us people have no pain, no tears, no heartache, no sorrow, no disappointments, no death, and there is a real place called hell. And the Bible says it is a nasty place. Now maybe you've met people, and I certainly have, who have said, you know what, even if hell exists, all my friends are there, so at least I'll have company. And they act like going to hell is going to be like some cosmic wanes world where they're just going to party on for all eternity.

Friends, does it sound like this rich man's having a party? Does it sound like he's having a blast in hell? Four times in this passage Jesus describes hell with the words torment, agony.

Right in verse 24 Jesus calls it a place of fire. The rich man was begging for a dip of water on his tongue. The rich man was begging to get out of hell. That's all he wanted.

And when he couldn't get out then the thing he wanted was for his loved ones at all costs not to end up there with him. Does this sound like a wonderful place? No. Cosmic wanes world?

I don't think so. And that leads to the fourth and final thing about the afterlife that we should know. And that is that after death people's eternal destiny is fixed.

It is set in concrete. Notice that the people in heaven, they're in heaven forever. That's good. And the people who are in hell are in hell forever. That's bad.

And there is no way out. You say, well, wait a minute, wait a minute. Time out a second. You know, I'm confused a little.

Because here you've got this rich man. He's in hell. He's begging God for mercy. I was under the impression that in the Bible God says anyone who comes to him and asks for mercy, he will never ever turn that person down. So I'm a little confused. Because he's turning this guy down in hell.

I don't get it. Well, friends, you're absolutely right. The Bible's clear that anybody who comes to God and asks for mercy on this earth, in this life, God promises they will get mercy. But you see, what Jesus is trying to tell us, friends, is that in the afterlife the rules change. They're not the same in the afterlife. In the afterlife God withdraws his offer of mercy from people in hell. And it no longer is applicable. It no longer works. God said, you know, you had your chance on earth and you didn't take it. I'm sorry.

The offer is gone. And that explains what Abraham said to this rich man. What did he say? He said there is a great chasm that is fixed between those of us in heaven and you who are in hell and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I'm sorry, but it's set in concrete.

That's the way it is. A few years ago my boys and I were in Los Angeles and we wanted to go to a game. We always love going to baseball games when we're in other cities and we always try to go a couple hours early to any game and get batting practice balls.

It's like a personal challenge, you know, to get a batting practice ball. And even if the game, we don't care, the game goes, just if we got a batting practice ball, it's a good day. So I said, let's go to Dodger Stadium. And we all packed up and headed off to Dodger Stadium and I bought some great seats right down behind home plate. This was going to be a great day and we got there two hours early to get batting practice balls.

Well, now, you know, you don't get a batting practice ball behind home plate. You got to go in the outfield bleachers up in the red area at the top where you see. So we went over to the bleachers and tried to go in the bleacher entrance and it had a big sign, bleacher tickets only. And I thought, okay, well, let's just go in where our tickets get us in and we'll just mosey on over to the bleachers once we get inside. So we went in and we walked down towards the bleachers. The main seating area stops and there's like an opening where there's grass and everything.

If you've been to Dodger Stadium, you know what I'm talking about, the main seating doesn't go over to the bleachers. So there's a big guard standing there and I said to him, I said, hey, how are you? Fine. I said, how do you get over into the bleachers from here? He said, you can. I said, no, no, no, you don't understand. We have to get into the bleachers. He said, sir, have to schmafta. I don't care.

You can't get here from there. And I said, well, what if we went out and went over to the bleacher entrance and went in there? He said, let me see your tickets.

He looked at him. He said, you can't use these tickets to get in there. And I said, now, wait a minute. These tickets are way more expensive than bleacher tickets.

So for sure they'll let you trade down, right? He said, no, sir, I'm sorry. These tickets are for this section. You've got to have different seats for the bleachers.

And by the way, they're sold out. I said, OK. I said, so what if we kind of popped on the field for just a second and walked across and popped in the bleachers and you'd be the only person who'd know about it. It's only about 10 yards. It's not that far. He said, sir, if you plan to be in the stadium when the game begins, I would not recommend that. So I thought and I went, all right. I said, now look, hypothetically, hypothetically, what would it cost hypothetically for you to just kind of walk us over to the bleachers hypothetically and let us be over there.

And only you and us, only we would know about it. And he said, hypothetically, sir, you can't go from here to the bleachers. Do you know I tried for 30 minutes everything I could think of to get from that section of the bleachers. And you cannot get from the main section of Dodger Stadium to the bleachers. We didn't get a batting practice ball.

I am depressed to this day when I talk about it. We didn't get a batting practice ball. We sat there and watched all those balls fly into the outfield bleachers and we weren't there. And I learned a very important lesson about Dodger Stadium. Between the bleachers and the rest of the stadium, there is a great chasm fixed and you can't cross it. Now that's exactly what God says is in the afterlife. There's a guard standing right at the edge who says, I'm sorry, you can't go from here to there.

Period. Folks, do you really think Jesus would have died on the cross for a myth if hell was just a myth? Do you really think if hell was just a legend that Jesus would have stayed up on the cross and gone through all that pain and suffering?

No. Let me tell you, Jesus stayed on that cross for one reason only and that is because he knows hell is real. He knows that it's an awful place. He knows that people really go there. And he knows that once people get there, they are there for eternity.

It's like Dodger Stadium. There is no getting across that chasm. And Jesus died on the cross to make it possible for you and me not to have to go there. That's why he went to the cross because he knew there was no way you and I could deliver ourselves. He had to do it for us with his blood. And that's why Jesus went to the cross because he loved us enough.

He was willing to do that for us. Now I want to stop here and in the moments or two I've got before we close up, it's time to ask a question. You know our question?

Sure you do. So is everybody ready? Okay, here we go.

Ready? One, two, three. So what? Yeah, you say, so what?

Say, alright, that's interesting. But you know what? I'm already a follower of Christ. I already know I'm not going to hell.

I hate the Dodgers anyway. So what difference does any of this make to me? What difference? Well, I think it makes a lot of difference, friends, and let me tell you why. I believe as followers of Jesus Christ here in America, we need a fresh glimpse of the reality of hell.

We need that. We need to understand that when we offer Jesus Christ to people, we're not just offering them a better way to live their earthly life. We're not just offering them more blessing, more fulfillment, and more peace in life. Now we are offering them that, but if that's all they were turning down when they turned Jesus down, that'd be one thing.

But the stakes are much higher than that. We are offering them eternity in heaven versus eternity in hell. We are offering them eternity in bliss versus eternity in torment. Those are the real stakes that co-worker in our office, a friend of ours in school, that next door neighbor of ours, the person sitting next to us on the metro, the relative that we spend Thanksgiving with every year, the Bible is crystal clear apart from Jesus Christ, all of these people are going in eternity to a really nasty place.

And they're not going to be able to get out. Now they don't know that, but we do. And I want to remind you of something very interesting that Abraham said. I don't know if he ever thought about it.

Here's what he said. He said, when the rich man asked for help in hell, he said, those who want to go from heaven to help you cannot, nor can you come here. Now unless I misunderstand this, what Abraham was saying is you know what?

The people in heaven are so upset by the pain and the suffering that the people in hell are going through that if they had the opportunity, if they were allowed, they'd leave heaven and they'd actually go to hell and try to help some of these people. Abraham says that can't happen though, even though we would like to come help you, we can't. It's beyond the point where we can help you here in eternity.

But folks, what I want to impress upon you today is it is not beyond the point where we can help people here on this earth. Here on this earth, people still can cry out to God for mercy. They can still change their eternal destiny. And that's why God left you and me here after we've accepted Jesus Christ. He didn't leave us here to make money. He didn't leave us here to amass power. He didn't leave us here to see how much creature comfort we could gain. He left us here to be missionaries every single day to people who are headed straight for hell. They don't even know they're headed there, but they can still change it here. And they need information that we can give them.

And my challenge to you every day when you walk out of your house is to walk out of your house saying, God help me be a missionary every day. That doesn't mean we're pushy. That doesn't mean we're obnoxious. That doesn't mean we're rude or offensive. It just means when God opens the door, man, we take it.

We take every opportunity we can to tell people about Christ. How sad would it be to be in heaven one day and seeing the faces of people in hell that you recognize. They were your neighbors. They worked next door to you in the office. They rode on the metro with you. They spent Thanksgiving in your home. And you did nothing to help them try to escape that fate. And now you're in heaven and you wish you could, but guess what? It's too late now. How sad would that be?

Well, if there's any source of sadness at all in heaven, I think that's liable to be in. Friends, I don't want that for you. I don't want that for me. I'm saying while we're here and we can still help people, this is the time to do it. And you say, yeah, Lon, I know. You're just trying to turn this into an evangelistic church.

Well, no, you're wrong. I'm not trying to turn McLean Bible Church into an evangelistic church. That's never been my goal. My goal is to turn you as a follower of Christ into an evangelistic person. That's my goal. Because if you become an evangelistic person and all of us become evangelistic people, we don't have to worry about this being an evangelistic church.

We will be. God's goal is not to make evangelistic churches. His goal is to make evangelistic people, missionaries every day.

That's my challenge to you. All those people, they really are going to hell, friends. I'd like to tell you different, but that's the truth. And you and I have the information that can change that if they're willing to listen. God help us be good missionaries.

Let's pray. Father, thanks for talking to us today, truth. Now, it's not attractive truth.

We don't like to hear this. Frankly, it's not even truth that much of Christianity will even embrace anymore. But that doesn't change the fact it's truth. And we pray that you would grip our hearts with this truth today and remind us that this is not a game. Hell is not a myth. It's not a legend. It's not a storybook fable.

This is real. That's why you died on the cross. And Lord, my prayer is that we would be so gripped by this truth that we would be willing to go out every day and be missionaries for the Lord Jesus. That we would speak to the people around us in hopes that they would cry out to you in mercy. And that in response, you would grant them heaven as a gift like you did the thief on the cross. So change our hearts and lives. Change the way, the very way we live because we were here today. And we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-09 17:47:48 / 2022-11-09 17:55:21 / 8

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