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The Next Chapter: The Truth About Heaven and Hell, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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October 25, 2021 9:00 am

The Next Chapter: The Truth About Heaven and Hell, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 25, 2021 9:00 am

Death is never a comfortable subject, but in the back of our minds, we all know that death is eventually coming. So, what happens after?

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. John includes in his final vision, a glimpse of the other destination in hell. And we ignore it to our peril. You see, most people think the default destination is heaven. Most people think as long as you don't really mess up, as long as you don't really screw up, then you're going to go to heaven.

But the Bible actually presents a different picture. Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Okay, let's start the week feeling a little bit uncomfortable. What do you say? Death is never a pleasant subject, but in the back of all of our minds, we all know that it's eventually coming, right? So what happens after we die?

Is heaven a real place or more pressing for some of us is hell? Today, Pastor J.D. talks about the two possible eternal destinations that we are each destined for. He titled this message, The Next Chapter, The Truth About Heaven and Hell. And it's the very last sermon in our overview of the Bible titled The Whole Story. If you've missed any part of this life-changing perspective teaching series, you can hear every message free of charge at

But right now, let's dive on in. Revelation chapter 21, verse one. John said, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them now, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. Also, he said to me, Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

And he said to me, It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I'm going to give you five words that describe the vision that we see of heaven in these last two chapters. Five words, they all start with R. First word is renewal.

Renewal. Verse one, John describes a new heaven and a new earth. British theologian N.T. Wright says that we get a glimpse of this and the resurrection of Jesus, a glimpse of our future.

It was a glimpse of the world's future. He had a body that you could see and touch, and he had a body that people recognized and knew who he was. He ate food, yet his body did not have the same limitations. He flies around. At one point, he apparates into a room.

N.T. Wright says one day God is going to do with the entire cosmos what he has already done with the resurrected Jesus. Jesus' resurrection was the appetizer to the full course meal of restoration. It was the trailer to the blockbuster film of redemption.

In other words, it's everything that we loved about the old creation minus the curse of sin. Number two, so renewal. Number two, reunion. Reunion.

That's verse three. Heaven is where God and his people are reunited together. In heaven, we're going to be reunited with all of our loved ones and friends who died in Jesus.

Hear this. Listen, heaven's greatest joy is reunion, and the greatest reunion is reunion with God himself, and there we will enjoy his eternal and loving and omnipotent companionship forever and ever, and our hearts will be so filled with love and delight and joy in him, we won't even know how to contain it. Number three, release.

Release. Verse four, he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore for the former things have passed away. What it means is that he transforms our pain into joy. Paul uses two images to talk about how we'll think about our pain in heaven. The first is in Romans 8, and it's the image of giving birth. He said life now is like being in labor, the pangs of labor that are very painful, but they're almost forgotten about the moment that you hold that new child in your arms.

That's the first image. The second image Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 15. He says death, death in that day is swallowed up in victory.

Think about that word, when you swallow something, it becomes part of you. In the same way, Paul says our experiences with pain and death make the end product sweeter and even more beautiful than if we had not gone through them. Number four, number four, reassignment. Look at how heaven gets described in chapter 22. There his servants will serve him. God is going to assign to us each very fulfilling work in heaven. You see, God knows how you're shaped. He knows how he designed you. He knows what you love to do. For the first time, some of you are going to know what it means to live according to your calling because you didn't get to experience it here on earth.

Maybe life, maybe bad decisions of yours, or maybe just the way life went. You're in a job or you'll never be in a job where your real potential is released there. You don't have to worry about not finding that on earth because there, God will have you working at your fullest potential. You'll be reassigned. Number five, last one, reign. Reign, chapter 22, verse five. There they will reign forever and ever. I'm not exactly sure whom we reign over or how we reign, but I am looking forward to finding out. The point I want you to take away from this is you are destined to be royalty. You're not destined to be an insignificant groveling peon with no importance or no responsibility. God created you to be a reigning prince or princess.

So start acting that way. Renewal, reunion, release, reassignment, reign. Before I conclude this section, let me draw just a handful of things I think this means for us. Let me reflect on it with you.

Here's letter A. Put up your bucket list. You see, bucket lists are all the things you want to do before you die because you assume you'll never have a chance to do them again. That's not true for a Christian. When Jesus says he's making all things new, wouldn't that include all the mountains, stars, rivers, oceans, planets, animals, culture, arts, music, architecture, and even extreme sports that you never got to experience on earth?

Because all means all. Revelation 21 26 even says that we will bring into heaven the glory and honor of the nations, which scholars say means the best of culture. There's only one thing that we can't do there that we can do here. Tell people about Jesus. That is the one thing we will not get a chance to do there. So why not give your life to pursuing that instead of some silly bucket list item you're going to experience a better version of in heaven anyway? Put winning people to Jesus on your bucket list and make the last chapters of your life about pursuing that, not pursuing something that you're going to get a better version of in heaven.

Here's the second one, letter B. Stop being depressed about aging. Some of you are really bothered by this. It depresses you to watch your beauty fade, watch your body decline. You're fighting it, right? And sometimes it's not pretty to watch you fight it, but you're fighting it.

I get it. I'm 43 years old now. I'm already feeling this. Sometimes I'll wake up in the morning sore, and all I did the night before was sleep. And I'm like, sleeping made me sore.

Somehow going from this position to that position strained my body so I can't walk straight for the next six hours. Brothers and sisters, I got good news. I got a glorified version of this body waiting on me. So stop being depressed about passing your peak.

You never pass your peak. You got a better version of your mind, your muscles, and your beauty that is awaiting you there. Here, letter C. Let's teach our kids to look forward to this. Teach them that for all they love on earth, they're going to have a better and heavenly version of it there. When they're going down a water slide, don't say, well, you better enjoy now because there ain't going to be no water in heaven. Teach them they have a heavenly father of endless goodness and endless creativity. Help them imagine what's cotton candy going to taste like in heaven.

Let's teach our kids that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, and that eye has not seen nor his ear heard nor has even entered into the heart of a child what God has prepared for those who love him, and that we have a heavenly father who is the giver of every good and perfect gift, and they can trust him in life as well as in the next life and in death and never let go of his hand. All right, letter D. Here's the fourth thing. You need to understand what you're longing for. You need to understand what you're longing for.

C.S. Lewis once said that the fact that we long for something beyond the grave is a strong indication that that thing actually exists. He uses the analogy of a fish. He said, do fish complain because they're wet?

Do fish like feel constrained in the sea? He said, if they felt constrained in the sea and they didn't like being wet, that would be a strong argument that they were not designed to be or destined to be aquatic creatures. And then he says this, we long as humans to step out of the sea of time and onto the land of eternity. Doesn't that show that we're created for eternity? If I find in myself a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the best argument is that I was created for another world. Listen, some of you really struggle to believe.

I know you're spiritual seekers, you're doubters, you're agnostics. You want to believe, but you struggle with it. I want you to wrestle with the fact that there is something in you that knows you were created for more than simply getting a job and procreating. That love that you feel, the longing for meaning that you have, these are not just illusions created by chemicals in our brains programmed by evolution as survival mechanisms to help us propagate our DNA into the future faster than our neighbor can. Quit telling yourself that it's courageous to embrace that life is meaningless and realize that it's not so much courageous as it is unnatural and counterintuitive. You long for meaning and eternity because you were created with meaning by an eternal God.

And you're never gonna find yourself fulfilled in life or satisfied until you're in right relationship to Him. If I find in myself a desire which nothing in the world can satisfy, the best argument is not that my particular chemical makeup has created an illusion of consciousness. The best argument is that I was created for another world as much as I want to.

I would love to end the message right there. I love to like pray, let's go home. That's what I want to do and not because I'm tired, but that's just theologically what I want to do. But I can't do that because John includes in his final vision, a glimpse of the other destination, hell. And we ignore it to our peril. You see, most people think the default destination is heaven. Most people think as long as you don't really mess up, as long as you don't really screw up, then you're gonna go to heaven. But the Bible actually presents a different picture. Let's go back to where we left off in Revelation 21 and let's look at what John says there. Verse eight, but as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. I'll tell you as I get into this, just for a couple of minutes here, a few minutes here, as I wrestle with this this week, I thought of the words of Charles Spurgeon that these are such weighty things, such that when I dwell upon them, I feel more inclined to sit down and weep than I do to stand up here and speak to you.

But they're in here for a reason. There are three things about hell that we learned from these last two chapters. Number one, hell is a place of eternal torment.

The images are awful. Fire, burning sulfur, eternal death. There is some question as to what is metaphor in Revelation and what is literal. But like I also told you a few weeks ago, even if these things are symbols, they point to a terrible reality. In the book of Revelation, the reality is always more terrible than the symbol. The symbol is just the closest earthly representation of the awful reality.

So whatever they're pointing to is unspeakably awful. People say, well, is it really eternal? I have to assume so because the same word that's used for everlasting life is used for everlasting death. It says the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century American theologian, he said, if you take it seriously, here's what you have to think about. Imagine yourself cast into a fiery oven glowing with heat. And imagine that your body was going to lie there for a quarter of an hour full of fire inside and out, feeling every fiber of it the whole time. What horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace? And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to drag onto you?

If it were measured by an hourglass, how slowly would the time seem to go? And after you had endured it for one minute, how overbearing would it be for you to think that you had another 14 minutes left? But what if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment in its fullness for 24 hours? How much greater even if you knew you must endure it for a whole year? How much greater still if you knew you must endure it for 1,000 years? What would happen to your heart if you knew you must bear it forever and ever, that there would be no end? That after millions and millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end than before, and that you should never, never be rescued? That your torment in hell will be immeasurably greater than this?

How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable, how your heart and soul would sink in such a case? People sometimes hear that and they say, but how is that fair? An eternity in hell for only 70 years of sin?

I've told you before that sin gains its wickedness by the one, by the majesty of the one against whom it is committed. If you punch a wall, that's a bad thing. You got to pay for the wall. You punch a dog, that's an even worse thing. You punch the lady in the line at the grocery store next to you and you're going to jail.

You walk up to the president of the United States or the queen of England and try to punch him or her. Something worse in jail is going to happen to you. Sin against an infinitely holy God is infinitely wicked. Sin against an eternal God warrants eternal punishment. It's not the duration of the crime.

It is the dignity of the one against whom the crime is committed that determines the severity of the punishment. You say, well, why can't God just let it go? Because God is just, and justice is the foundation of the universe, and justice demands restitution in some way. And we hate it when we see justice aborted, do we not? Don't you hate it when you see somebody get away with something?

When we hate it, when we see a court decision we really disagree with, where somebody gets away with gross injustice, for some of you that might be OJ Simpson, for others of you it might be George Zimmerman. God will ultimately right all wrongs and restore justice to the universe. And that's what hell is. You say, well, why doesn't God do something about it?

He has. He put on Jesus the full punishment for your sin. He took every single ounce of it, so none of it would be left for you. But if you don't receive it from him, if you don't offer that gift, what else can he do? You see, there's only two ways to pay for sin. The eternal son of God can pay for it on the cross, or you can pay for it yourself eternally in hell. And if you don't receive what he has offered to you, then what other choices does he have? You see, you either say to Jesus, in this life, thy will be done, or he says to you in eternity, thy will be done.

Which leads me to number two. Hell is a door lock from the inside. Hell is a door lock from the inside. You see what the angel said, or notice what the angel says about hell in Revelation 22, verse 11. God, this might be one of the most illuminating verses in scripture about hell.

Let the evildoer still remain evil. Let the filthy still remain filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Listen, people in eternity don't change.

The people in hell don't repent. They remain filthy. They remain depraved. They remain evildoers. They remain resistant to the authority of God.

They don't like his rules. They remain unbelieving. Their hearts remain unjust and corrupted.

It is a door lock from the inside. Yes, they hate the torment, but they hate the authority of God even more. Some theologians have said that this is what is being communicated by the image of eternal fire and the worm that never dies. Fire represents insatiable desire. You leave a fire unchecked, and it continues to grow until it burns down everything. That's what sin is like if we don't receive Jesus' invitation to save us.

Again, C.S. Lewis, here's the way he describes it. He said, hell begins with a grumbling mood inside you that's always complaining, always bitter, always blaming others. And at first, it feels like it's kind of distinct from you. It's sort of like something you can control that you don't like about yourself and that you're trying to get over. He said, but left unchecked, it grows and grows until it consumes you, until it becomes an inextricable part of your personality. You become your grumbling.

Hell is where the sins that you wouldn't repent of on earth consume you, burning like a never-ceasing fire in your heart. You become your jealousy and insecurity. You become your selfishness and materialism. You become your racism, your hate, your pride, your bitterness, your dishonesty, your suspicion, your lack of trust, and your fear. Those sins you would not repent of on earth grow and grow until they consume you, and they just become you.

Only Jesus can remove the curse of sin from your heart, and he does it when you turn to him in repentance and faith and cry out for healing. So death presents this barrier that once you cross over it, you will remain fixed in the state that you are, and you cannot repent of your sin, and you wouldn't want to even if you could. Let the evil do or still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy. By the way, that's why God can't let sinners in heaven, because if God let people into heaven with sin, we'd unleash the destructive destructive powers of hell there too. And soon heaven would be filled with rape and pride and violence and dishonesty and treachery and cruelty.

We would turn heaven into hell. So that's why hell exists, because it is the natural fruition of our sin. And those people who refuse to repent of their sin and separate themselves from their sin, there is no other choice than that they go to the place that they have chosen for themselves. That's the end of sin and people who will not repent of it. Number three, hell not heaven is our default destination. I told you most people believe that heaven is the default, but as long as you don't mess up really bad, you're going to go to heaven.

But that is not true. Scripture presents the opposite. It is true that God did not create you for hell. He created you for heaven. But see, you and I are part of a race that has rebelled together against God.

And we have said, I want to be in charge of my life rather than God. And because of that, we are all sinners. And because of our sin, we are all headed to where our sin is taking us. Notice the breadth of who is described as going to hell in verse eight.

Do you see it? Let me go back to 21 verse eight. You've got the ones in that list you would expect, murderers, sorcerers, but it includes a lot of people that, listen to this, could be found in the church. The cowardly. Those who would never stand for Jesus in front of their friends. Those who would not confess Jesus before others.

They wanted to keep their relationship with Jesus a private thing, but they never had the courage to actually obey Him. How about this? The faithless.

How about this? The faithless. That's those who went along in the church, but never really trusted God enough to actually obey Him in these areas.

For example, their finances. I mean, they love to sing songs in church, but they never obeyed God with their relationships or their finances. They were faithless. Idolaters. Those who wouldn't put God first in their lives. Oh, they made church a regular part of their schedule, but God was never really first in their heart.

Liars. Those who came to church, but whose submission to God was not sincere. And so the relationship with God they portray by sitting in an audience like this one is different from the relationship with God they actually have. There is not one of us who has not been found in this list at some point, which means that every one of us, by default, is headed for hell.

But it doesn't have to be that way for you. You see this? Look at how John ends the book, the whole book of Revelation. He ends it by saying, the Spirit and the bride say, come. You don't have to go to hell. Let the one who hears say, come. And let the one who is thirsty, come. Let the one who desires take the water of life without price. You see, Jesus Christ suffered the full penalty for your sins so that you wouldn't have to. But He's not going to force it on you. You have to come.

You have to receive it. He paid it all. It's interesting, the book of Revelation tells you that the last voice you're hearing is Jesus Christ saying, you don't have to do this. I died, I suffered every bit of your sin, but you have got to repent of it and you've got to receive me as your Savior.

So here's the way I want to end the whole story. The whole sermon series ends with one question. Have you personally received Jesus as your Savior? I don't mean you go to church. I don't mean your parents, Christians.

I don't mean you read your Bible sometimes. But have you ever surrendered your heart to Jesus Christ and acknowledged that He's the Lord of your life and received the gift of salvation that He offers? You have to receive it personally. Are you sure that you've received it? Because these are such weighty matters that makes me want to weep.

And I want to make you sit up and ask this question. Are you sure that you have trusted Christ personally as your Savior? Trusting Christ is twofold, repentance and faith. Repentance means you surrender control of your life.

Faith means you receive the gift that He offers you as your own. If you know you need to receive Jesus or you're not sure if you ever have, you could do it right now in this very moment by simply surrendering control of your life to Jesus and receiving Him as your Savior. That would sound like this. You could even use the words of the prayer I'm going to give you.

It would sound like this. Jesus, you're the Lord, not me. I surrender to you right now. Can you say that to them in your heart? Jesus, you're the Lord, not me. I surrender my life to you. Jesus, I receive you as my Savior to pay for my sin and take me to heaven.

Say that to them. I receive you as my Savior to pay for my sin and take me to heaven. If you just prayed that prayer and surrendered to God for the very first time, we'd love to pray with you and help you take the next steps. Get in touch when you visit or give us a call right now at 866-335-5220. You're listening to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of J.D.

Greer. Today's message is a conclusion of a study that we've been in for the past few months called The Whole Story. We've gone from Genesis to Revelation, and we're discovering how every page tells the story of the gospel. We're trusting this series has been not just a blessing, but a point of significant growth for you in your walk with the Lord. And as we conclude, we think that there's no better resource to pair with a three-month survey of the Bible than, well, the Bible.

So this month we're offering a custom Summit Life Bible to those who support Summit Life financially. We know the Bible is the Word of God, so how should we respond when we read it? I think the first thing we usually think about, especially as young believers, is how the Bible should change our actions. But the Bible is so much more than a manual for right behavior. Think of your time in the Word as intimate, personal conversation with God.

And as God speaks to you, I want to encourage you to speak back to Him. We worked with the publisher Crossway to create a custom Summit Life version that includes some more detailed study tips and a full year reading plan. It's the ESV or English Standard version of the Bible.

The main goal of providing a Bible with a reading plan is to grow in your daily interactions with God and His Word. And we'll send you this custom blue leather Bible as an expression of thanks when you donate today to support this ministry. Give a one-time gift today or join the team of monthly supporters called Gospel Partners. Ask for the custom Summit Life Bible when you give by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or give online at If you'd rather mail your gift, our address is JD Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to listen Tuesday as we're diving into a new study of Galatians called Freedom in the In-Between. We're learning how the gospel frees us to live with confidence in a world of uncertainty on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-31 11:24:21 / 2023-07-31 11:35:18 / 11

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