Summary: All people are destined for Hell, except for those who accept the intervention of Christ the Lord.

“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 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.” [1], [2]

Antoine Dominique (Fats) Domino Jr. died this week. As is almost always the case after the death of a popular entertainer or famous person, cartoonists pictured him playing piano in heaven and commentators suggested that he was now playing piano and singing in God’s celestial choir. In popular theology of western culture, except for a few universally detested characters, everyone goes to heaven when they die.

I enjoyed his music; I emulated his style when playing piano during my teen years. However, whether Fats Domino is in heaven is not my decision, and I’m glad for that. Certainly, I hope that Fats Domino is in heaven; if this is so, it is because of the grace of our Lord Jesus. I’m glad I don’t make this decision for others, because I know that I am unqualified to make such a determination; I hardly know my own heart. What I do know is that hell is the default destination for mankind. This is the reason God sent His Son to die for a condemned race.

Preachers of a prior generation were sometimes accused of being overly graphic, excessive in their employment of dramatic licence when speaking of eternity, especially when they preached about hell. If preachers from an earlier time spoke too often and with too much imagination about hell, preachers of this day have erred by moving to the opposite extreme, giving little warning of the consequences of a life in which God doesn’t count.

In our text, John has just described a stunning scene that unfolded before his wondering eyes. He wrote, “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, 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, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” [REVELATION 21:1-4].

When I conduct the graveside service as a saint of God is interred, I read these verses. The verses serve to remind those in attendance at that solemn hour of the promise of the Living God. Imagine! No more tears. No more “good-byes.” Death will have been banished forever. There will never again be a heart that sorrows. Never again will a child cry because her mother has been taken from her sight. Never again will a father weep because he can not again hold his child. There will be no more pain. The cripple will walk with firm step. The blind will see clearly. The deaf will hear. The dictionary will need to be rewritten so that words such as “death,” “sorrow,” “pain” will no longer be known.

Then, in emphasis of what has just been proclaimed, the Word of God informs those looking forward to this day, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also, he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’ [REVELATION 21:5].

John has provided a verbal picture of what most people assume will be their destination. It seems fair to say that popular mythology assumes they all people go to heaven when they die. Preachers make such statements at the funerals of noted musicians. People mew and purr that the one who died is now singing in God’s choir. Hollywood starlets and televisions personalities all go to Heaven, according to the popular view; God seems obligated to accept them because they are so adored on earth. Even when a notorious rake such as Hugh Hefner dies, commentators and reporters speak of their welcome into Heaven where we are assured that they have made a grand entrance.

Scripture, however, presents quite a different view. It is true that God created people for Heaven, but the rebellion of the human race, in which we all have participated, has destined us for hell. Hell, not heaven, is our default destination. This accounts for the warning Jesus gave: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” [MATTHEW 7:13, 14].

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