Summary: A sermon discussing Heaven and Hell as the only two possible destinations when we die.
An elderly couple passed away and found themselves at the pearly gates. Peter was there to welcome them. First he showed them their mansion. The man overwhelmed by the sheer luxury of it all asked, "How much does this place cost per night?" Peter replied, "Sir, this is Heaven, it doesn’t cost anything." Then Peter took them to the dining room where table upon table was piled high with the most delicious foods you could imagine. Again overwhelmed by the glory of it all the man asked, "How much for the meals?" Peter said, "You forget, this is Heaven, it’s free." Peter then took them out back where they saw a fantastically beautiful golf course. As the man stood there open-mouthed Peter said, "Now before you ask, there are no greens fees, this is Heaven, everything is free." The man looked at his wife and said, "You and your confounded bran muffins, I could have been here 10 years ago!" Sometimes when people think of heaven they think of it as dull and boring. This joke however captures the promise of eternal life - a place of unbelievable beauty and delight.
Heaven is a great topic, it’s a fun topic to preach about because everyone loves to think about the possibility. Except atheists but if you read the stuff that they write about life and death, even they seem to be open to the possibility, as long as they get to go too. People love to talk about Heaven, what it is, what it could, who will be there. We love it, the flip side is Hell, we’re not so fond of talking about Hell. Hell tends to offend people, and if you talk about it too much you might just flat tick people off. Someone once said, “When you preach on Hell people will either get mad or they’ll get saved.” Hell is not a popular topic to preach on, but it is not only effective, but it is necessary.
It’s necessary because we all have an appointment we will keep one day. That is the language of our key passage today from Hebrews 9:27, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Judgment, it is a word that just sounds so harsh. When we Christians speak about it, people call us things like intolerant, like it’s our idea or something. It’s not our idea, it is God’s mandate, everyone will stand before God and be judged. One day you will stand before God, I will stand before God, everyone in this room will, every person who ever lived, and ever will live will stand before the judgment of God. When our lives begin this appointment has already been booked.
The problem is that there are a lot of people who view it as a popularity contest, it’s not. If people don’t want to believe in God that’s their choice, but have you ever noticed that they have the need to tell other people about it and try and convince them. It’s as if they think if they can get enough people to agree with them, we can just vote God off the island. One of the most common arguments against the existence of God is human suffering. If God exists why do we suffer? As if He promised we never would, I see lot’s of promises in the Bible about comfort during suffering but no promises that on Earth everything will be fine. In Luke 18 Jesus uses an parable to illustrate all of the injustice in the world, the same injustice that people use to question the existence of God, Jesus addresses it but then He asks this question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Not if He returns, or if there’s enough faith, but when He returns, it’s not a matter of whether we believe or not, one day Jesus will return and we will all have to stand before Him.
If the thought of judgment wasn’t scary enough for most people consider that judgment is based on truth. Let that though sink in for a minute. Judgment isn’t based on anyone’s opinion of what we need to do to get into Heaven, it is based on what God said it would take to get into Heaven. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” When you look at that phrase in the Greek “I never knew you” it can more accurately be rendered as “I never approved of what you were doing.” This is a passage that should catch our attention, these are people who were doing works of tremendous religious power. They were prophesying, they were casting out demons, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a power encounter with a demon but it will keep you awake at night. They were doing all sorts of things, in the name of Jesus, but they weren’t following what He said, their basis for power was right, but not Lordship. Judgment is based on whether we accepted Jesus as our Lord or merely as a source of power. Jesus as Lord is the path to Heaven.