Summary: In man’s journey toward eternity, there are really only two roads: one which leads to eternal destruction in hell and the other which leads to eternal life in heaven.
Has anyone here ever heard of Diego Rivera? No, not Geraldo Rivera from TV... Diego Rivera. Diego Rivera was a famous mural painter from Mexico at the beginning part of the 20th century. Rivera painted a handful of very famous murals depicting Mexico’s history. In these murals he would place important historical figures from different time periods literally side by side in one big panorama.
The book of Isaiah is like one of Diego Rivera’s murals. God, speaking through the Prophet Isaiah, gives us a panoramic view of history and the future – of time as we know it. He paints in broad strokes from the perspective of eternity. You see, God lives outside of time. For him it’s as if the future has already happened. So in the book of Isaiah, he places future events side by side. He speaks of the future as if it has already happened. For example, he describes in detail the suffering and death of Jesus 700 years before his birth and he tells it AS IF IT HAD ALREADY HAPPENED!
Well, our text for this morning is comprised of the last written words of the Prophet Isaiah. In our text we have a mural – a mural which depicts man’s journey to eternity. In this mural there are only two roads on which to travel. And this morning we’re going to take a look at those two roads: the road that leads to eternal destruction in Hell and the road which leads to eternal life in Heaven. We read from Isaiah 66:18-24...
I. The road which leads to the eternal destruction of Hell.
Heaven and Hell exist. I feel I must say that, because our post-modern society isn’t quite sure. Well, that is, at least about the Hell part. This last week, I went on the internet and checked out some surveys to see what Americans believe about Heaven and Hell. Now, I can’t say whether these surveys are completely accurate, but the results are definitely interesting.
It seems that 93% of Americans believe that heaven exists, but less than 60% believe that hell exists. Less than 10% think that they are going there. Only 27% even believe that the Devil is real – So, I guess the old saying is true: “The greatest feat the Devil ever accomplished was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.” – 45% of Americans think that it really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something. 44% believe that good atheists will get to go to heaven. And I guess none of this is surprising seeing that only 41%, well under half of all Americans, believe that the Bible is totally accurate. So if I don’t like to hear what the Bible says about Hell, punishment, and sin... I’ll just believe them away.
But God’s Word is totally accurate. God’s Word does speak of Hell, of eternal death, and of the punishment of sin. In fact, Isaiah paints a very vivid picture of Hell here in our text. In verses 22 and 23 he pictures heaven like the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Temple where believers will worship God forever. In verse 24, Isaiah says that outside of the temple are the dead bodies of those who rebelled against him, and that “their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
This is word picture that the Jews of Isaiah’s day would be able to see very clearly. You see, just outside of Jerusalem a short distance from the Temple is the Hinnon Valley. The New Testament uses the Hinnon Valley as an illustration for Hell and for good reason. Since Old Testament days, the Hinnon Valley was a place of wailing and groaning. It was there that pagans slaughtered and burned their own children as sacrifices to the god Moloch. For centuries it served as the dump of Jerusalem where garbage and carcasses were burned. It was a place of filth and disgust for those who lived in Jerusalem.
And Isaiah says that that is what Hell will be, an eternal fire, worms eating away at your flesh forever. A place outside of God’s Kingdom. Thrown out of his perfect presence into eternal punishment. An eternity in the filthiest, most painful and most disgusting place imaginable. As Jesus said in our Gospel for this morning, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And what is the road that leads to Hell? Well, basically it’s the road that we all start out on. The road that we all travel by nature. In verse 18, God says that because of man’s actions and imaginations (literally his actions and thoughts), he would come to gather them together to see his glory. Now remember, for sinful mankind to see God’s glory is not a good thing. He is talking here of his glorious and awesome judgement.