“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”—Revelation 20:15
“And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”—Revelation 22:5
The contrast between an eternal hell and an eternal heaven could not be more vivid, more motivating and above all, more frightening. When I read these passages, I ask myself: where are the people who are too good to go to hell, but not good enough to go to heaven? Surely, there is some middle ground, some eternal purgatory where the vast majority of descent, but unconverted humanity will reside.
But there is no such place. The Bible paints reality like it is: either eternal torment or eternal bliss. “Every human being,” says C.S. Lewis, “is in the process of becoming a noble being; noble beyond imagination. Or else, alas, a vile being beyond redemption.” He exhorts us to remember that “the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all only in a nightmare…There are no ordinary people…it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry and snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”(1)
Imagine for a moment, hordes of people resurrected to appear at the Great White Throne Judgment. We are struck with their diversity: the pauper stands next to the multi-billionaire, and the servant stands next to the king; all religions are well represented, as are all continents and countries. This vast multitude is united in this: each person lacks the one thing needed to stand in the presence of a holy God; they lack the righteousness of Christ that can shield them from God’s anger and righteous judgments.
Meanwhile, the redeemed have an entirely different destiny. They behold God directly, without a mediator and without sin coming in between to hinder their fellowship with the Almighty. Theirs is a destiny of uninterrupted joy, unending relationships, and eternal bliss.
The stark contrast between these groups has to do with our relationship to Jesus. Peter, the Apostle, exhorted us to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Those who end up in heaven will be those who believe that when Christ died for sinners, He did all that will ever be necessary to save us, and if they transfer their trust to Christ, they will be saved and they’ll know it. Thus, salvation is based on the promises of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Let us use this prayer time to ask God to search our hearts in order to make sure that we have confidence that we belong to Him, and to pray for those who might be self-deceived, believing themselves to be saved when, in point of fact, they are not.
Let Us Pray
Father, I call out to You today, first of all, that You might give me renewed confidence that I do belong to You—that I am a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Give me the assurance that will make me bold in my witness, and willing, if need be, to die for Christ, knowing that my eternal destiny is secure. May this confidence cause me to rejoice in Your wonderful salvation.
And now I pray for _____ that they also might have the assurance that they belong to Christ. I pray that You will reveal to them whether their faith is real or whether they are self-deceived. I am reminded of those who will someday say, “Lord, Lord” and then list the miracles You have done, and yet You will reply, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
Lord, I plead for ________ that they might not only be saved, but be assured of it through Your promises and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(1) C.S.Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, rev. and exp. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1980), 18-19.