Summary: Third part of a four part investigation into heaven and hell.
We are continuing our investigation this morning into heaven and hell after taking a brief break last week. For those of you who haven’t been here or are simply like me and very forgetful let’s just recap what it is we are trying to accomplish in this investigation and what we have covered so far.
We started this whole thing out by saying that we are trying to answer the basic questions that any investigation tries to answer: who, what, when, where, why and how. The first week we answered the question of what makes heaven so wonderful and what makes hell so terrible and again, in case you were not here or you just forgot we concluded that it is the presence of God or the lack of that presence that makes the difference in both places. The next week we answered the question of who determines the eternal fate of each person by saying that although God sits as a judge he merely honors the choices we made throughout our lives and that when the time comes for us to stand before him we will have no one else we can blame should we be cast from his presence for all eternity.
Now, you might have noticed that there are a total of six questions for us to answer in this investigation and we have only covered two of them. Now we will wrap up this series of messages next Sunday so we are either going to have to leave some questions unanswered or we will have to tackle multiple questions on the same day. Next week we are going to spend a great deal of time answering the question of "why" and we said that this investigation was going to be as complete as possible...so today we will tackle the questions of when, where, and how. Specifically, when will all this take place...where is heaven and hell...and how will God bring all this about? We have a lot to cover this morning and since we are answering three questions we are only going to get to scratch the surface because I really want to get into the "why" question and spend all of our time on it next week, so...let’s get after it.
We start this morning with a story...a story of a mistake that...well...you’ll see it’s affects:
A man and a woman decided that they would go away on a vacation to Florida and visit some old friends. It was the middle of January...things were pretty cold back home in Michigan so it seemed like a good time to just get away. There was, however, a problem, the husband wanted to leave on Sunday immediately following church but the wife had commitments that would keep her at home until Wednesday. They decided that he would drive down ahead of her and then she would fly down on Wednesday.
When he got down to Florida he wanted to let his wife know that he made it safe but it was so late that he couldn’t call. So, knowing that she checked her email first thing in the morning he sent her an email. There was, however, a problem. Their email address was Smith12@yahoo.com. His finger slipped on the keyboards and he sent the email to Smith22@yahoo.com.
Now, one wouldn’t think that this would be much of a problem...but it turned out to be a major problem...you see the woman who checked the email on that morning at the address the message was mistakenly sent to was a recently widowed lady. In fact, she had just buried her husband the day before. Is it any wonder her son found her passed out from shock in front of the computer when she received the following message:
My dearest wife:
I have arrived! The trip was not that long and I am getting to see so many of our old friends here! I am looking forward to seeing you in a few days.
P.S. Sure is hot down here.
What a difference one little number makes...now, to my knowledge, the story is completely false. But, besides being funny, it shows a little bit about our ideas concerning the location of these places that we call heaven and hell. The widow in that story...she reads the words "down here" and she automatically assumes that he is in hell. A couple of weeks ago I used the analogies of Louisville as Heaven and Atlanta as hell...not because I dislike Atlanta...but for the directional analogies. To us...heaven has always been up and hell has always been down. This brings us to the first of our questions for today...where exactly is heaven and hell?
We’re going to answer this question by taking a look at a couple of places in scripture...and the first will be in 1 Thessalonians 4. As we turn over there...as always let me set the stage a little bit for you...the church at Thessalonica...they had a lot of questions about the after-life and what would happen when they died...and what happened to those who were already dead...so Paul...he writes them this, starting in verse 13 (end with 16).