A Glimpse Behind The CurtainDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | August 18, 1991
Selected highlights from this sermon
There are many books about near-death experiences. But take a closer look. Most of the stories are strikingly similar in saying that there’s no concern for future judgment. That is in complete contradiction to what the Bible says. Satan wants to give unbelievers the same positive experiences that Christians have during their near-death experiences.
As always, death is in the news. But it’s been in the news recently because of a new book that has been written entitled The Final Exit. It’s a book that teaches you how to commit suicide. After all, people today want to die with dignity. People want to know that they themselves are in control of their destiny here on earth, and nobody is going to keep them alive when they want to go. Unfortunately, the book will not only be purchased by people who are of age and who do not want extended hospital care. The book will also be purchased by a lot of people who are depressed, people who feel as if life isn’t worth living, and young people who are tired of the pressures, tired of their parents. And this will give them an easy exit.
You know what the problem is? In most cases (not in all but in most cases) when people commit suicide, when they arrive on the other side, what they are going to find there is far worse than anything they have ever endured here in this life. What a terrible, terrible horrendous shock it is going to be when they land in eternity.
Now, throughout the ages people have always wondered about whether or not there is life after death, and there is evidence that comes from various kinds of so-called scientific or experiential strands of information. Let me give you a few.
First of all, there is the world of the occult, the world of mediums. A number of years ago I was in a library (a public library) and noticed Bishop Pike’s book entitled The Other Side, and I read about half the book. I don’t recommend that people read books like that but nevertheless I happened to. Pike’s son committed suicide, and Pike wanted to get in contact with his boy because Pike noticed that things were being rearranged in his room in such a way that his dead boy wanted his attention. For example, he’d come home and find out that the clock would stop at the very moment in which his son committed suicide, or the drapes would be pulled in a way that his boy used to pull them. And so he assumed that it was being done by his son. And so he got in contact with a medium, and the medium called up the boy, and Pike had a long discussion with his son.
I don’t recall all the details but I do remember Pike asking his boy, “Do they talk much about Jesus on the other side?” And the boy said, “No, Dad, we don’t talk about Him a whole lot here.” I couldn’t help but smile, because if you ever die and land in a place where they don’t talk a whole lot about Jesus, you’re in the wrong place, my friend. I can tell you that.
But Pike then, as a religious liberal who had never accepted the Bible as authoritative, ended up believing that indeed, yes, there was life on the other side, and it’s a relatively happy life. And his son also told him, “Dad, just keep doing the best you can and you’ll be okay.” Pike, a gullible theologian, believed him. Isn’t that tragic?
Now, I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that Pike never spoke to his son. He never had one word with his dead son. You see, there are demons in the world that watch us. Undoubtedly some are assigned to us. They observe all of our activities, hoping to gain an advantage against us in a moment of time if they have that opportunity, and those demons come to know us so well that they can actually talk about us. They know where we live. They know our history. They know our weaknesses. They know our strengths. And it is those kinds of evil spirits that are called up by spiritists, by mediums. Today they call them channelers. And gullible people think that they are talking to the dead, and they’re not talking to the dead. They are talking to demonic spirits who impersonate the dead.
One of the most interesting things about Pike’s book is that while he was talking to his son suddenly, of all things, Paul Tillich shows up and begins to have a discussion with Pike. Paul Tillich had died several months before, another very liberal Protestant theologian. And Tillich showed up and had a discussion, and Pike again thought it was Tillich because he said, “I even noticed his thick German accent.”
Well, I want you to know that demons are able to speak through other people’s vocal chords with a thick German accent. They are that smart, and they are that clever. But Pike never spoke to his son. He never spoke to Paul Tillich. He was speaking to demons and believed the whole bit. A tragedy indeed!
While I’m on the subject, I was in Canada. I was interviewed some time ago on television there, and during one of the breaks the interviewer asked me an interesting question that I wish he would have asked when the camera was rolling. We were talking about the New Age, and we were talking about the occult, and he said, “What if I were to say to you that my grandmother, who has been dead for many years, the other night came into my room and sat on my bed, and we had a discussion together?” He said, “What is your response to that?”
I said, “First of all, I want you to know that I would believe your story. I would not say that you are crazy. I would not say that you were hallucinating. I would believe that something happened; there was an aberration and you had a discussion.” But I said, “What I would not believe is that you had a discussion with your grandmother.”
You see, sometimes we forget that there are demonic spirits who actually take the names of dead people, and people think that they are having a revelation from some person who has returned from the dead, and all that they are encountering is a spirit being that has taken the name of that person, that knows something about that person, and they are in contact with dark occult, deceptive evil powers.
If you don’t believe in haunted houses, you are uninformed. They exist. I can assure you they exist. Even scientifically they exist. It’s been proven that there are spirits in some houses. Where did those spirits come from? Are they the spirits of the dead? Of course not! A haunted house is a house in which some demons have chosen to live, and frequently when a person is himself demon possessed and dies, some of those demons choose to stay at the point where the death occurred, and that’s why you have haunted houses.
In this church right now there is a couple. I don’t know if they are here today, but they do attend here regularly, so I have every reason to assume that they are. They were suddenly visited by some evil spirits in their apartment. I will not go into the details as to the manifestations because that may just be a bit much for a public audience. But they could not understand why suddenly this assault from the host of hell. And then it dawned on them. The father of the wife was a spiritist, and he had just died, and those demonic spirits now needed some place to go, and in needing some place to go, they decided to retaliate against the family. And so what you have today is a world in which people must understand the nature of demonic spirits, their incredible deception, and they will tell you anything you really want to hear, especially things like, “Oh Dad, all that you have to do is to keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be alright on the other side.” Nonsense! Deception bought by gullible people who refuse to believe the Bible!
Now there is a second line of evidence that is sometimes used for life after death and what it’s like on the other side. Reincarnation says that you always keep getting better and better. Now if you’re in the east you know that there’s not only evolution, but there is also devolution. You can crop up as an ant on the other side. But in western culture we don’t like that, so the idea is that you just keep being recycled. Shirley MacLaine says it’s like shooting a movie. You just keep doing it until you get it right. And you keep going around and around and around, and each time you’re a little better. And the evidence for reincarnation, we are told, is overwhelming.
Many years ago I told you this story, but I need to tell it again because it fits here. Remember the woman, Shirley, that I rode with on the plane? I mean, this plane wasn’t even off the ground. I think I was flying to some eastern city, and we weren’t even off the ground, and I was sitting beside her and we were already into it. She asked me what I did. I said, “I’m a minister. I speak to people.” She said, “Oh, I love to speak to people because I have the gift of healing, and I can do this, and I’m a psychic, and I’m this.” And I thought, “My word! How could God in His infinite providence have arranged this more beautifully that I should be the one to sit beside this lady? (laughter) You know, God is so good sometimes, I just marvel at the wonders of His providential care.
So in the middle of this she said, “I can prove reincarnation.” She said, “I used to dream and have visions of a house that I lived in in Vermont during the 1800s.” I felt like saying, “Shirley, you’re old, but not that old,” but anyway she said, “I lived in this house,” and she said, “I’d never been to the state,” but she said, “I saw the house. I understood where its furniture was in incredible detail,” and then she said, “As an adult I finally went to the house and confirmed it.” And she said, “I had never been in the state before in this existence but I lived there during the eighteenth century.”
I said, “Shirley, I want you to look me in the eye.” I said, “I want to tell you something that will be very unambiguous and very clear.” I said, “You are into a spirit world and you are having communication with evil spirits because,” I said, “there is no such thing as a transmigration of souls. There is a transmigration of demons, and because you are in contact with demons, they know what that house is like over there in Vermont,” and I said, “You are receiving information from them that you are believing, and you are being deceived.”
And she said, “Absolutely not!” She said, “I am in contact with spirits, but not evil ones—only good ones.” I said, “How do you tell the difference?” She said, “I refuse all spirits that come to me in darkness. I receive only communication from spirits that come to me clothed in light.”
Do you know what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 11:14? Paul says, “There are ministers of righteousness who are really ministers of unrighteousness,” and he says, “We should not be surprised because Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
And I said, “Shirley, I want to tell you something. Not even Swedenborg, one of the greatest occultists, agreed at the end of his life that he couldn’t tell the difference between good spirits and bad spirits. He agreed that he had been deceived, and,” I said, “I want you to know that you are also. You are a deceived woman,” and I urged her to come to Christ for repentance to get her life straightened out. Reincarnation—another form of occultism!
Well, what shall we say about near-death experiences? Back in the 70s there was a man by the name of Raymond Moody who wrote a book entitled Life After Life. And he dealt with near-death experiences. His name is, yes, Raymond Moody (M-o-o-d-y). People sometimes wonder whether or not he is related to D. L. Moody. I don’t think he’s related, but he’s a reincarnation of D. L. Moody, you understand. (chuckles) Now… You did get that, did you not?
He wrote a book about out-of-body experiences, and here’s what he discovered that many people have as they have these near-death experiences. He says people, first of all, hear themselves pronounced dead. And then their spirit goes and hovers over and watches the doctors working on their own body. And then others come to meet this person in his new existence. He meets relatives and friends. He sees a being of light. And then he sees a tunnel. And when he knows that he has to return, he does so reluctantly because he has been so engulfed in light and in love, and he has such a sense of well-being and peace, he does not want to go back to the earth. But when his spirit is again sucked up into the body and he lives, when that happens, afterwards he never fears death again, and he lives a more productive life because he knows that after death there is life, and it is totally beautiful.
This past week I read another book, a newer one on the topic, entitled Closer to the Light, Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children. This man interviewed a lot of children who died, or who came very close to death, I should say, and they tell their experiences, and the thing that is so remarkable is their similarity. You may say to yourself, “Well, how do we know that this isn’t just a hallucination?” What this man did was he interviewed a lot of different children who were very, very ill, and who were on all kinds of drugs, and he discovered that some of them had hallucinations, but none of them had an experience like this. You actually have to be near death to have what is called a near-death¬ experience. It can’t be had in any other way.
Now the whole book is filled with stories. Let me read two paragraphs to you. A boy is speaking:
I reached a certain point in the tunnel where light suddenly began to flash all around me. They made me certain that I was in some kind of a tunnel, and the way I moved past them I knew I was going a hundred miles an hour.
At this point, also, I noticed that there was somebody with me. He was about seven feet tall, and wore a long white gown with a simple belt tied at the waist. His hair was golden, and although he didn’t say anything, I wasn’t afraid because I could feel him radiating peace and love. No, he wasn’t the Christ, but I knew that he was sent from Christ. It was probably one of his angels or someone else sent to transport me to heaven.
And so the book goes on and on discussing similar experiences.
What can we say about these near-death experiences? A couple of comments, very quickly! First of all, they indeed may prove the separability of the soul and the body. Now, of course, there are some materialists who want to explain all of these experiences purely as brain-generated, that is to say that this is a hallucination. This is the ability of the mind to reconstruct a scene like this, something like dreaming. The reason that I don’t think that that’s an adequate explanation is that there are some stories in which the people leave their bodies, and actually end up seeing things in other places in the hospital that they could never possibly know about except for the fact that their soul actually has separated from the body, and they could see a much wider area. So it may (I’m not dogmatic about this.) prove the separability of the soul and the body.
But there’s a second comment I want to make, and that is these experiences may or may not reflect conditions in the life beyond. They may or may not. In some instances, they may, and in some instances they may not.
Now, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Acts 7 where somebody had a near-death experience, and this gives me the assurance that when some Christians die, just before they die they see Jesus, I have no reason to doubt that indeed may be a possibility. You’ll notice that Stephen is being stoned, and it says in verses 54-56 of Acts 7: “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”
Stephen is being stoned here, and he has not yet died. In fact, perhaps he had not even fallen down. Maybe none of the stones had even hit him, but already God had opened heaven so that he could actually see into heaven, and see Christ. So if a believer is dying, and if he is not drugged (Many people die today drugged, as you know, and therefore they can’t communicate their experiences to us.), it is entirely possible that they can open their eyes and say, “I see Jesus.”
A nurse here at The Moody Church told me that a girl in the hospital (a little girl), who was for many days unconscious, suddenly woke up, sat up, and said that she saw Jesus and her friends, and then instantly died. I would think that very possibly she saw Jesus and her friends. Why not? But, and I come now to something that is so crucial that I don’t want anyone to miss it, remember this! Remember that Satan wants to give unbelievers the very same positive experience in these near-death experiences.
Can you imagine what would happen if Satan came to unbelievers as dark, evil spirits and then they came back to life. They would be terrified out of their wits, so what does he do? He gives them an experience of light, an experience of peace. They meet a being that has no concern about future judgment. They are led to believe that everything on the other side is sweetness and light and happiness.
One woman said that she had an experience like that, and Jesus came and took her by the hand and led her and showed her all the different paths. Here’s the path of Buddhism. Here is the path of Hinduism. Here is the path of Christianity. And Jesus wanted her to know that all the paths lead to the same place. Isn’t that sweet? I can assure you that that was not Jesus. That was who? It was Satan himself, transformed into a being of light with all the sweetness and love and ecumenism that one could possibly muster. And so she comes back to tell everybody authoritatively that it doesn’t matter what you believe. We’re all going to the same place.
Now, I want you to know today that I know with absolute unquestioned certainty that those are demonic experiences. They are not from God. The light that is often seen is not the light of Jesus Christ. It is the light of a demonic spirit who comes like he used to come to Shirley, and probably still does, clothed in light.
You say, “Why is it that you are so sure? Why all this dogmatism?” I’ll tell you why. It’s because the messages that people bring back from the other side are sharply contradicted by the Bible. What do you mean by this idea that everybody is going to the same place, when Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven? What do you mean that there is no judgement when it says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment?” What do you mean by sweetness and light when Jesus had so much to say about the terror that awaits unbelievers? It is nothing but a deception pulled off by gullible people who don’t want to believe the Word of God.
Rodney Clapp, in an article in Christianity Today said some fantastic things. He said that these near-death experiences tell us no more about death than someone who has been near Denver, but not in the city. Some people have a near-Denver experience. Some people have a near-death experience. Neither of them is authoritative, and I agree. “They are bereft of certitude,” he says.
You know, I don’t want to care too much about what happens in a near-death experience. I want to know what happens to me when I die, not what happens when I’m only near death. I want to take the words of somebody who is qualified to tell me what lies on the other side. I want to take the words of somebody who was not just near death, but was totally dead, somebody whose body began to disintegrate, somebody whose body turned stone-cold and then was put in a tomb for three days, and then was resurrected. Now, there is somebody who can be believed.
I think books like this are nothing but an absolute insult to Jesus Christ. Closer to the light! Of course, I have no objection to him interviewing them, and even writing them up, but why act as if Jesus, who died and who rose again, has nothing to say on the subject, and we have to believe and rely upon the bits and pieces of human experience?
Now all that is supposed to be an introduction to my message today. Aren’t you glad you came? That’s the intro, folks. If you think that you are getting out of here without your money’s worth, think again. Relax!
Let’s turn to Genesis 2 and 3 for just a moment. Just a couple of thoughts about death, and clearly, I am going to have to finish this message next week. I had no idea that the intro was going to be this long. But just a couple of things!
First of all, I want you to know that there are two faces to death. Two faces! For example, on the one hand, death is a judgment for sin. What does it say in Genesis 2:16? “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
What is God saying? He’s saying that your death is a judgment for your sin. And later on, Adam and Eve ate, and they began to die. Physically they were still alive. The trees in the garden were still green. The sky was still above them and they were aware of their surroundings, but physically their bodies began to disintegrate, and spiritually they were cut off from God, just like if you were to take a light bulb and disconnect it from its socket. They died, separated from God. And physical death is the separation of the soul and body, and spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God. And that’s why death is such a horrendous experience. It is the final earthly judgment on sin. That is what death is. And that’s why it’s our enemy. That’s why it is unnatural to us, and that’s why none of us seems to be very comfortable with it. That’s the negative side, but there’s also grace in death. There is judgment but there is also grace.
Notice at the end of Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve have been judged (and we need to skip all that), it says in verses 22-24: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—' therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim (these are angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Why? It’s because the Lord says, “Lest he eat of the tree of life (in the last part of verse 22) and live forever.” Wow! What a terrible thing!
Could you imagine what would happen? Here are Adam and Eve now. They have sinned. Their bodies begin the process of disintegration. They are dead spiritually, and they begin to die physically, and now suddenly they eat the tree of life, and they live forever. They live forever as sinners. They live forever alienated from God. They live forever in their sinful state. What a tragedy that would be! And so what God says is, “I want to make sure that they do not eat from the tree of life because I want them to be able to die.” Death is grace!
Death means that we can finally be exempt from the pressures and the pulls and the heartaches and the pains of this world. And eventually it becomes the passageway into everlasting and eternal bliss. It is part of God’s total package of redemption for mankind. And that’s why Paul can say in 2 Corinthians: “All things are yours.” He says, “Whether life or death, they are yours.” People read that passage and they say it doesn’t make sense. In what sense is death the possession of the Christian? Paul says, “You’ve got it mastered. It’s yours. It belongs to you, and it is a lovely exit.” When it’s time to go and when you have lived your life, thankfully you don’t have to live your life forever here on earth. Not even I would want to live forever, and I’m still in good health.
Now, in the Old Testament, what you find is that the Bible does not have a whole lot to say about where dead people go. Sixty-four times the word Sheol is used, and scholars debate as to whether this means that there is a compartment in the earth, and whether there are two compartments, for the righteous and for the wicked. And we know that that, indeed, is the case, as we can see from the New Testament. But the Old Testament is rather unclear. All that it talks about is the fact that someday the righteous are going to be resurrected, and the unrighteous are also going to also be resurrected. It says in Daniel that there’s a resurrection to righteousness, and there’s a resurrection to everlasting shame and contempt. And Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon this earth. And though my skin worms shall destroy, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Even though some translations say, “Apart from my flesh I will see God,” either way, the point is Job is saying, “I know that after I die it’s not the end. I shall still see God.”
But the Old Testament is unclear. It does not have a lot of details, but suddenly when we get to the New Testament, it is as if God pulls the curtain back and He shows us what lies on the other side with incredible clarity. And that’s why I don’t understand why authors like this don’t look at somebody who knew what he was talking about and could speak with authority.
Take your Bibles and turn to Luke 16 for just a moment. You know the discussion with the Pharisees had to do with money. Most people don’t know why this parable was told because it wasn’t really told just to tell us what lies on the other side, though it does tell us what lies on the other side. But the Pharisees were lovers of money, and they hated it when Jesus talked about money.
You know, it’s interesting that from time to time here, as pastor, I need to talk about money. I talk about the need for more giving and for the need for generosity. And every once in a while I get a phone call or I get a letter, and people say, “You shouldn’t talk so much about money.” Well, I know that we’re not in the business of running ministry here for money. I can assure you of that. But on the other hand, why is it that we’re so sensitive about this topic? I hope it’s not because we’re lovers of it.
Notice is says in Luke 16:14: “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him—were scoffing at him (because Jesus was talking about money). And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men (What is highly esteemed among men? Money! You kill for it. You lie for it. You steal for it. You finagle for it. You manipulate for it. You lie on your application for it. Money, money, money!) is an abomination (detestable) in the sight of God.” Ouch!
In order to illustrate how (the way in which) you live in this world may not have any bearing on the way in which you live in eternity. Jesus tells a story, and it’s not a parable because He doesn’t name people in parables. And furthermore, it does not have the same context as other stories do.
It says in verse 19: “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.” I wish I had time to explain all those words, but Jesus is saying, “This guy is really living. I mean, he’s really got it.”
“And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores (You know, he was one of those bag people that you see whom you think are just nothing but a pain. That’s the kind of a man he was.), who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels (Notice! Perhaps before he died he even had a vision of angels. I expect to see angels when I die because the Bible says that the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom.), and the rich man also died and was buried.” Do you know why Jesus adds that? He doesn’t say that Lazarus was buried, though maybe he was, but I think Jesus wants us to understand that there was a big funeral. A big funeral!
Some time ago I heard about a man who was walking next to a funeral home, and he saw that beautiful, beautiful Cadillac, that hearse, and then behind it a whole series of Cadillacs. And he saw them all and he said, “Now, that’s living! That’s living!” And you could just imagine this man’s funeral! I mean, that’s living! He was buried, and think of all the nice things that were said about him at the funeral. Oh, people stood up and talked about his generosity, and his kindness, and what a lovely man he really was if you knew him.
You know that sometimes you go to funerals and you hear things said, and then you say to yourself, “I must be in the wrong funeral parlor.” And all these lovely things are being said, and sometimes I hear of the death of a senator or the death of some famous person, whom I suspect had never received Jesus Christ as his Savior, and all the lovely things that are said, and I think of this passage of Scripture.
I tell you the truth. I think of this passage of Scripture almost inevitably when I hear about the death of some person who was great, who perhaps was not a believer, because notice what’s happening in the spirit world and in Hades. “Being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’”
He gets to talk to Abraham. We’re talking about, you know, Abraham in the Old Testament, the one to whom the covenants were given. But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received good things, and likewise, Lazarus bad things. But now he is being comforted, and you are in agony.” What a turn of events!
What a turn of events! Lazarus, homeless, a burden to society, sleeping on the streets with some wild dogs that come to lick his sores. He dies and people say, “Good riddance! He’s out of the way!”
This man! Great funeral! Rich! Money! He’s tormented in the flames.
Verse 26: “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” I need to stop here. You have to understand that when the New Testament uses the word Hades, Hades is not hell. Hades is not hell. Hades is a temporary place that eventually is thrown into hell (Revelation 20) after the final judgment, but Hades is not yet hell. Nobody who dies today as an unbeliever is yet in hell. They are in Hades.
Hades is not hell. Hades is not purgatory. Purgatory is an entirely different concept. It came about through tradition because of a wrong understanding of justification by faith. The idea was that nobody who dies is righteous enough to go directly into heaven so they need to be purged over a long period of time to have all of the evil burned out of them. And then eventually they get out of purgatory even if it’s tens of thousands of years. That is not found, of course, in the Bible, needless to say, but it was invented to cover the fact that so many people were dying who had no assurance that they were ready to enter into heaven yet. They did not understand that justification by faith means that one can have an immediate access into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ because God declares us righteous. Hades is not hell. Hades is not purgatory, but it is a place of torment.
Now, what can I say in these concluding moments? I want you to know that as you read this passage of Scripture, are you not impressed with the full consciousness with which both sets of individuals are presented? Can you imagine an unsaved person suddenly saying, “You know, I’d like to contribute to missions?” He said in verse 27: “I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house (That is, he hopes that Lazarus would be sent to his father’s house)—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
I want you to notice that in Hades the full consciousness of his memory, his feelings, his family associations, his concerns, his physical needs for water—all that is alive and well on the other side. But here’s the tragedy of tragedies. For him and for millions like him, there is no way out. There is no way out!
In Revelation 20, after the final judgment and everybody stands before God, it says Hades was thrown into the lake of fire, and that’s where hell is. And that goes on forever and ever and ever and ever.
Let’s contrast this with the man by the name of Lazarus. Lazarus, of course is comforted. He’s in Abraham’s bosom. I take that to mean heaven. He is in Paradise. He is with God. He is with his friends. He is having fellowship with one of the famous patriarchs of all time, Abraham. And he is being comforted.
What a stark contrast! What an incredible contrast between destinies. I need to say it. You’ve already caught it, of course, but notice that they instantly are there. There are some people who believe in soul sleep, that after you die, you sleep for a while and then in the final resurrection there’s a judgment and then you are annihilated if you go to hell, and then you live forever in heaven. And that’s the belief, but there is instant consciousness. There is no such thing as soul sleep.
Oh, if only our eyes could be opened, we would be absolutely astounded at the other side. Why didn’t Bishop Pike, who was a theologian, read this passage of Scripture, and get his act together and believe it rather than believing his son, whom he thought he was speaking to, saying, “Dad, just do the best you can, and you’re okay here on the other side?” and, “We don’t talk much about Jesus much on the other side.” Here is somebody who is speaking with some authority. The Son of God is speaking with authority.
Many years ago Mayor Washington died here in the city of Chicago. And it was big news—big news! I remember when the politicians attended his funeral, and when so many nice things were said. And by the way, I’m not opposed to saying nice things after people die. I’m not even opposed to saying nice things while they are alive. I’m actually a very nice guy. (chuckles) I hope that when I go, there will be people who will be able to think of something nice to say. I really do. But one of the things that astounded me was that everybody who stood up and spoke talked about him being in heaven, and what he’s going to be doing in heaven. You know, “Will he be organizing precincts up there?” some people suggested. Other people suggested how close he is going to be to God.
Well, you know, it’s not my place to judge whether he went to heaven or not. That is known but to God, and my intention of mentioning this issue has nothing to do with where his destiny is. The thing that was surprising to me and the thing that struck me was that everybody was so incredibly sure that he was in heaven that they never even thought it necessary to give a reason as to why he might be there. Nobody gave a reason except, of course, that he was the mayor of Chicago. And I suppose that if being major of Chicago does not qualify one to enter into the pearly gates, who then can be saved? (laughter)
Could you imagine going to one of these politicians and saying, “Could you please tell me, since you consider yourself a Christian; would you give me a biblical answer as to why you think he’s there?” They’d have thought it was impertinent, it was disgraceful, distasteful. Who could possibly question that a mayor of Chicago goes to heaven directly? He doesn’t even have to pass “go.” He didn’t have to pay $200. I mean, it is direct!
My dear friends, I want you to know today that it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, it doesn’t matter how far you are on the ladder, how righteous you are, how you have conned the people around you. If you have never personally put faith in Jesus Christ, and transferred all of your trust to Him alone for your salvation, when you die you will be in Hades, and from there comes hell. And that’s it! And that doesn’t come because a child has had a near-death experience, and we debate whether it’s valid. That comes from the Son of God, who says, “I have the keys of death and Hades.” That’s who it comes from. I didn’t make it up. I didn’t make it up! That’s why I read it to you.
And so the question is, “Where would you go if you died before we get a chance to sing the song I’ve selected?” That’s the question. And are you ready? Would you hurry to Christ? Would you say, “Lord Jesus, I want to believe on You right this moment because apart from You I am lost, sinner and hypocrite that I am?”
Father, You know the hearts of all those who have listened, and we pray in the name of Christ that You might do the miracle that only You can do. We think of those who toy with death, thinking that they still have lots of time, and not knowing that they hang by a thread, and before I pronounce the benediction it could all be over forever. God, we pray, forgive our foolish ways. Forgive us, Father. And we ask in the name of Christ that You will save those that need to be saved.
If you are here today in that category, and you say, “Pastor Lutzer, I need to receive Christ as Savior, and right now by faith I do,” would you raise your hand please? Is there anybody that fits into that category today? Anybody who raises his hand and says, “I believe in Christ right at this moment?” I see one hand. Is there any other person that is raising his hand today, and says, “I receive Christ as my Savior?”
Lord, take the message that has been presented, I pray, and use it mightily in Jesus’ name, Amen.