What happens when we die? That final breath of life, and you wake up and, ah, the terror of that moment, and I can't help myself, and no one will help me.
No one can help me. That's what lies just ahead if you're a non-Christian. It's the age-old question. What happens after you die? Do you cease to exist, or is there life after death? Well, thankfully, the Bible gives us the answer, authenticated by the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
But there is a caveat. It all depends on your position in Jesus Christ. Hello, I'm Bill Wright, and on this edition of the Truth Pulpit, Pastor Don Green shows us what Scripture reveals about the moment after physical death, one path for believers and a terrible alternative for non-believers. And Don, as a pastor, this topic subjects you both to the highest joy and the lowest grief, doesn't it?
Well, Bill, it's like you're reading my mind when you put it that way. My friend, this message really shows forth the consequences of being a Christian or not being a Christian. It shows how salvation changes everything.
You know, the Bible says that it is appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgment. And in the simplest way possible, I can tell you, Christians go to one place and non-Christians go to another. Christians go to joy, non-Christians go to eternal judgment. When you see that, you realize the importance of the gospel, and it will compel you to flee to Christ. Thanks, Don.
And friend, have your Bible handy as Don continues to teach God's people God's Word right now from the Truth Pulpit. I understand that there is a great fascination with stories about near-death experiences and foolish books that even Christian publishers put out about people who supposedly have died and gone to heaven and then come back. Those things are all a waste of time. There is nothing reliable in them. Don't look there for what your soul depends upon.
Don't look to foolish books supposedly written by a vision given to a four-year-old boy about what happens when you die. You wouldn't put the keys of your car in the hands of a four-year-old. Why would you put the future understanding of what happens to you when you die to a four-year-old who is under the influence of his father when the book was written? Why would you do that? It's foolish.
No, no. What you need to do, beloved, is you need to take a mature look at the Bible. You need to realize that this book and this book alone is where God has spoken and see what God Himself has to say about it. And that's what we're going to do today. What happens when we die?
Let me ask you a question, two questions that we'll answer here. Are you a non-Christian? Are you still in your sin? Do you maybe come and hang out in a building with other Christians, but you've never been renewed within? You've never truly repented and given your life to Christ? You've never truly trusted Him to save you?
You've never repented and utterly surrendered your life to Him? Maybe you come from a Christian family. Maybe you speak Christian words. Maybe you listen to Christian music on the radio. But in your heart, you know you've never been born again. Maybe you're just a hardened sinner and you don't really care. You don't even know why you're here. What am I doing here listening to a message about death?
Variations are endless, aren't they? Well, let me just say that if you're not a Christian, let me tell you what lies just ahead for you. You will die. What happens when you die is the question. You can't escape death. There's a reason why there's no one over 110 years old living on the face of the earth.
It's because everybody dies. So are you a non-Christian? I say this out of the deep, deep love of Jesus. I say this with a spirit of earnestness and care for your soul. If you are a non-Christian and you die like that, here's what's going to happen to you. You are going to immediately enter into conscious punishment for your sins.
There will be no waiting period. There won't be any soul sleep. It's not that your soul will be annihilated and you will cease to exist.
No. No, you see, Scripture makes it clear. You will die and you will enter into conscious punishment for your sins. Luke 16.
Turn there with me if you would. You will go into immediate conscious punishment for your sins. And I'm going to read an extended passage which comes from the lips of Christ as he's telling a story about a rich man and about a poor man. So much that we can learn from this passage will focus on just one or two aspects of it. But in verse 19 of Luke chapter 16, Jesus said, There was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table.
Besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died and was buried. Stop there for just a second. There it is. Two streams of life, so to speak, coming together at a common point of death.
That's what we were just saying. Rich man had it good in this life. Lazarus did not. They all met, as it were, they met at the intersection of death. Now what happened? Verse 22. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom.
And the rich man also died and was buried. And now, verse 23, speaking about that rich man, in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he, that is the rich man, cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame. But Abraham said, child, remember that during your life you received your good things and likewise Lazarus' bad things, but now he is being comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able and that none may cross over from there to us. Beloved, let's just make a couple of observations about this rich man who's representative of sinners who die without Christ.
What happens? Well, if you're not a Christian, let me just say that you are getting a preview of your future as it stands right now. This is a preview of coming attractions, although it's not very attractive, is it? Jesus has given us a picture of what happens to the unsaved dead. They go to a place of misery, of agony and conscious infliction of punishment for their sins. It's a picture of physical suffering. It's a picture of conscious recognition of torment that is inescapable. There are accusing memories and there is a conscious separation from God, from the blessings of righteousness, and there is a declaration that there is no second chance. Look at what Jesus said at the end of verse 26. None may cross over from there to us. The conscious experience of pain is so great that this rich man was begging for a drop of water on his tongue to momentarily alleviate his suffering. And Abraham says, no dice.
It's not going to happen. There is a chasm fixed. You are where you're at and you cannot leave there. You are in prison. You are being tormented.
You are suffering and I can't help you. And neither can Lazarus. There is no relief that will come to the unsaved dead from outside to alleviate it and they can't get out of it themselves. So there he is in Hades, which is the realm of the unsaved dead. There he is in Hades and he says, I can't help myself. He says, Father Abraham, send somebody from outside to help me. Abraham says, no dice.
Do you see how utterly hopeless and frightening this is? This is what the Word of God says lies just ahead, just beyond the realm of this life, just beyond that final breath of life. And you wake up and... The terror of that moment, the conscious recognition that this is too awful for words and I can't help myself and no one will help me.
No one can help me. That's what lies just ahead if you're a non-Christian. Death for you will seal your punishment. Eventually, in the outworking of God's purposes for the last days, you'll experience a bodily resurrection. Not that you would get a second chance to respond to the gospel, but you'll experience a bodily resurrection that sets you up for the infliction of eternal punishment. Look at Revelation chapter 20, if you would. Revelation chapter 20.
You know, these things are so awful. And all you can do as a preacher at this point, all you can do as a pastor is just trust the Holy Spirit to work in someone's heart. Because there's a fixed chasm.
Let's put it this way. There's a different kind of fixed chasm as well, in that your heart is where it's at, and I can't cross the chasm into your heart to undo sin, to undo your love for sin and your hatred of Christ. I can't step in there and do anything about that. Just like Lazarus couldn't step into Hades and relieve the punishment, I can't step into your heart and change a thing about it. We are all utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit of God if anyone's to be rescued from this miserable condition.
Because Scripture says you're dead in your trespasses and sins. And if you know that you're not a Christian, there should be an ever-growing sensibility about you at this very moment. There should be an ever-increasing urgency in your heart that says, Lord God, help me. I don't know what's going on here in my heart, but I don't think I know Christ, and this scares me.
That's what should be happening in your heart. But I can't make you do that. I can't make you respond that way. All I can do is lay the truth out. You have to soften your heart. You have to cry out to Christ. You're a non-Christian.
What was there for the rich man is your destiny as it stands right now. I have nothing to gain by telling you this. Evaluate my motives. Why would I say this to you, my unbelieving friend? Why would I say this to you?
Is this what's going to make you like me? Would that motivate me to say this? No.
No. I understand that when you say these things to people, they resent it and they turn away. Why would I say it?
It's because it's true. It's because I don't want that destiny to fall upon your head. But all I can do is tell you, you're the one who has to repent and cry out to Christ. Now, Revelation 20, verse 11 says, Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it. This is at the end of time, just prior to the introduction of the eternal state, where there will be a final bodily judgment. Right now, the realm of the dead, the realm of the unsaved dead is a holding place of punishment until this great moment that is coming. Verse 11 of Revelation 20, I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them.
They wanted to run, but they couldn't. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the democrats and the republicans. I saw them all, standing before the throne and books were opened and another book was opened which is the book of life and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds. Yes, your life will be reviewed at the judgment throne and God will hold you to final account for all your sins.
That's what this is describing. Verse 13, The sea gave up the dead which were in it and death and Hades, there's that realm of the unsaved dead, gave up the dead which were in them and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. My unsaved friend, this is the outcome for sinners.
This is what happens. God will judge you in the body for the sins that you have done in the body. Your life will be compared to the perfect standard of the law of God and your violations of that law in thought, motive, word, and deed will be brought to account and God will punish you for every single one of them.
God is a holy God. He is a just God and he will vindicate his righteousness against your violations of it. He will vindicate his righteousness against your rejection of the gospel. He will vindicate his righteousness of your cold, stubborn, indifferent response when people share Christ with you. God will vindicate his son.
He will vindicate Jesus Christ. And Scripture says that the most severe punishment will be reserved for those who rejected the gospel, who trampled on the blood of Christ and said, I don't want that and treated it like it was some unclean thing. Look, I don't bear any fear of that happening to me because I know that I'm a Christian. But telling you what lies ahead for you is enough to crush me. It's like there is a huge way, like an anvil just pressing down right now because of the incalculable consequences of which we're speaking. And just knowing what Scripture says about the heart of men, I know that some of you are laying there, would this get over please? You don't want this to get over. You don't want this to get over until it so works on your heart and convicts you of the fear of God that it would begin to lead you to wisdom which is found in Christ Jesus alone. If you are not a Christian and you are impatient under the hearing of this, you are in desperately, desperate spiritual shape because this is reality. You will die. This is what will happen. And there is no one other than Christ who can deliver you from it.
Why would you be impatient with that? Why? Matthew 25 verse 46.
You can just jot this down. I'm not going to turn there. Matthew 25 verse 46 says, these will go away into eternal punishment. Punishment that you could almost say is too horrible to contemplate.
Almost. It is horrible. And we hate to think about this in one sense, but the reason that it's not too horrible to contemplate and you say it's only almost too horrible to contemplate is because God has revealed this in his word and this is what most people are plunging a head toward. What would be too horrible to contemplate would be to stay silent on the matter and let people just go into the consequences oblivious to it. My unsaved friend.
My unsaved friend. God does not trifle with your sin. If this seems unfair to you, that's irrelevant. It doesn't matter what you think about it. It really doesn't matter. God's not going to submit his judgment to your approval.
It doesn't matter what you or I think about it. The only thing that matters is, is this what God says? And yes, it is. Your sin requires this kind of punishment because God is so perfectly holy and your rejection of Christ, your violation of his law, your refusal to hear the gospel, listen to me now, is so horribly blameworthy that the only proper thing for a holy God to do if you remain in that condition would be to send you away and give you the punishment that that deserves. That's the only right thing for God to do for those who trample on his law and trample on his Son.
One author said this. He said, Those who remain unrepentant when confronted by God's claim on them and who continue in the blasphemy and rebellion in which sin implies will face God's just wrath. The doctrines of purgatory and annihilationism are unbiblical false lies designed to take the edge off of this teaching. As if, well, if you suffer for a few million years at least it comes out well in the end. No, that's a false promise from a false church. There is no end to this punishment. And my unsaved friend, this is why we preach the gospel to you.
We love you too much to let you go. We love you too much to just stand by and watch you go deeper and deeper into your sin, deeper and deeper into your rejection of God's Word, and to act like that's okay, that it doesn't matter. It does matter.
It matters for you. Amazing grace. It was grace that taught my heart to fear.
You can understand in this context why John Newton penned those words. It is a gracious act of God to bring the fear of the eternal judgment on sinners to your consciousness so that you would be awakened to Christ and turn to Him for salvation from your otherwise certain fate. Through His Word, Christ is speaking to you now and saying, this is what's just ahead. One more time, His Spirit bids you to come to Christ. Will you refuse Him in light of everything that we have seen from God's Word today?
Why? What do you gain? What do you gain, my unsaved friend? What do you gain from rejecting Christ in light of what Scripture says is just ahead for your soul?
What do you gain from that? Do you see how much you love yourself, how much you love your sin, how much you must hate Christ at the very bottom of your heart if you can hear the consequences of sin and harden your heart once more and say, I will not have this man reign over me? This, if that's still you, this exposes the utter guilt and blackness of your heart if what is immediately ahead of you could be spelled out in such clear terms from Scripture for you, and you would still say, no. You would still, as it were, put your fingers in your ear and say, blah, blah, blah, I can't hear you. You can hear me.
You can hear me. Soften your heart and turn to Christ. Because even if you don't care about whether you go to hell or not, Christ has brought the gospel to you. What happens when you die?
Are you a non-Christian? You've just been told. It takes the element of surprise out of it anyway, huh? At least you won't be so shocked. I don't know if there'll be this kind of conscious recognition. It would be just of God that when you wake up in that horrible condition, one second into it will be the accusing recognition that in your conscience, I was told and I rejected. Not only will you be suffering, you'll realize that you're there of your own volition. Wow.
Wow. Take heed of the gospel, please. Take heed of Christ, please. We'll have to pause right there for today, but Pastor Don Green will conclude his message titled, What Happens When We Die? next time on The Truth Pulpit. You'll hear more of the joyous part of this lesson, so be sure to join us. Right now, though, Don's back in studio with some closing thoughts. Well, my friend, it's always meaningful for me to be able to preach God's word to God's people and to share it with you here on the radio.
Recently, I completed a series that is one of my all-time favorites. It's called The Bible in Roman Catholicism. It was several messages designed to test Catholic teaching by what Scripture says. We'd like to share a copy of that with you, a full, complete CD album of ten messages.
Just go to our website and request it, or you'll find the downloads. We just want you to have this material at no cost as our gift and ministry to you. Thanks, Don. And friend, just visit thetruthpulpit.com and click on Radio Authors for all the information. Again, that's thetruthpulpit.com. Now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, inviting you to join us next time as Don continues to teach God's people God's Word in The Truth Pulpit.
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