Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment
Revelation 14:13 "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
The George Gallop Institute reports that 70% of all Americans believe in Heaven and 53% believe in Hell. I invite the reader to click first on the following link, which features a simulation of every person being born or dying on earth in real time: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/a-real-time-map-of-births-and-deaths/280609/
In today's blog we are going to be featuring the first in a periodic series of what I am calling "Next big things". These are particular events that will impact every human being who has either lived or who is living today. Whether rich or poor, Christian or none Christian, the Bible spells out for us in big "bill-board style" what the next big things are up and coming. There is an event that for either this blogger or you the reader or someone you know that could happen when you least expect. The next big thing to which I refer is: "Death, Hell or Heaven". There is only One way in which you can be sure you're ready for when that "next big thing" may occur - that of course is by grace through faith alone trusting in Christ alone.
All human beings occupy one of three states
Many theologians and Bible teachers have pointed out that in the Bible we can understand human beings as occupying one of three states: There is a living state, followed by an intermediate state that begins at death and concludes at resurrection (resurrection of the righteous for believers and a second, separate resurrection of the wicked for unbelievers). These first two states proceed the third and lasting state, the eternal state, that entails the New heavens and earth for believers and Lake of fire for unbelievers following the Great White throne judgment in Revelation 20. Only in this current living state do we have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and by Grace through faith believe, repent of our sins and be saved from the wrath to come.
What follows then is understanding the next big thing of death, and recognizing that there are two places spoken of in scripture wherein a person will occupy: Heaven or hell. Two men will aid us in understanding what this next big thing is all about so that you can be sure you are ready once it happens to you. The first man is the rich man in Luke 16 and the second man will be the thief on the cross in Luke 23. In looking at both of these men, we can note two general truths about death, Hell or Heaven. I will simply give the reader the headings and then explain them as we go:
1. Those who go to hell are born once and die twice
2. Those who go to heaven are born twice and die once
So let us note the first man, the rich man in Luke 16, and see how he portrays....
Those who go to hell are born once and die twice
All who are born into this world are described as having been born in Adam, in sin and in death. (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:19) One preacher has illustrated this by noting that man's birth is like a dot, with an arrow proceeding infinitely ahead of him, representing the fact that he is an everlasting soul. (.--------------------------------------->)
The Rich man in Luke 16:19-31 was undoubtedly born, and lived as we see in Luke 16:25. Then like every man, the Rich Man died as seen in Luke 19:22. That Rich man had been born, lived and now died physically. Where did he go? His living state on this earth was done, and now the intermediate state of his soul began. The Bible says that this Rich man, in Hades (or Hell) lifted up his eyes in torments. We can note some traits of this first man who died and went to hell:
1. He was unexpected by many to die and go to hell. Lk 16:14
The reader must understand that for Jesus' listeners, this would had been a shocking development. The Rich man would had been the last guy you would had expected to end up in Hell. Rich people were often thought to had done the right things in the sight of God and man to obtain their level of wealth. Earlier in Luke 16:14 even the Pharisees, the self-righteous religionists of their day, were noted for their opulence. Nevertheless Jesus' teaching is quite clear, the Rich man had been born, lived and died in his sins. Sadly a person don't have to do one thing to die and go to hell. This rich man had his heaven on earth and did not want God in his life. Some people are going to end up in Hell that we would never expect, but notice also...
2. He was unrepentant. Luke 16:24
The rich man was in agony in the flames. He wanted comfort, like he had in his living state here on earth. (Luke 16:19) Like the people who will be under the wrath of God on this earth in the great tribulation recorded in Revelation 16:9,11,21, the Rich Man evidences no repentance, only rebellion against God.
3. He was un-forgetful Luke 16:30
Father Abraham reminds the rich man: "remember during your life". The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to "his father's house, for he has five brothers". The rich man's perpective on Lazarus as the "begger at his gate" had not changed. In hell, the person refuses to change. Ironically, the rich man is now the beggar and Lazarus is in comfort. (Luke 16:25)
4. He remained unconvinced of the scriptures. Luke 16:30
According to Luke 16:29-30, after father Abraham tells this rich man that his brothers have the law and the prophets to guide them to the saving knowledge that will spare them from the flames, the Rich man flatly says: "No Father Abraham." A person in hell is still convinced they have a better way and plan. Sadly, whatever state an unbeliever leaves this world, they will continue in a downward and increasingly inward spiral of sinfulness and opposition to the Lord and His book.
Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment. We've noted that the Rich man had been born once, lived, and died a physical death, ending up in hell to await judgment. The second death will occur according to Revelation 20:14-15 when death and hades, that is to say every unbeliever whose name had never been recorded in the lambs book of life, is cast into the lake of fire. More will be spoken about the Great White Throne judgment in later posts. However for now we can say this where we get the idea of "the second death" and hence the sad reality of hell for those who are "born once and die twice." The Rich man describes such a person. But now let us turn to another man, the thief on the cross, who represents....
Those who go to heaven are born twice and die once
The scene is Golgotha in Luke 23:39-43. As is often the case in Biblical discussions about death, heaven and hell, we can be surprised to learn who ends up in both places. For this thief on the cross, he would had been the last guy you would expect to end up in heaven. To go to hell, there is sadly nothing you have to do. To claim neutrality on the issue of salvation and Jesus Christ is to declare your rejection of Him. (John 3:36) However in order to get to heaven, there is nothing you can do to contribute. In short order we can note the following about the thief on the cross and his being born twice and only having to die once:
1. He received God's Word. Luke 23:38-39
2. He repented Luke 23:40-41
3. He relied on Jesus Luke 23:41-42
4. He was regarded justified. Luke 23:43
Clearly the Holy Spirit was doing a work of grace on this man's heart, for he experienced what Jesus had described in John 3:3 as the New birth. He was born again by the Spirit of God because of God's Sovereign Spirit working forth for him to act and embrace Jesus Christ by faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Though the remainder of the New Testament explains such realities in more detail, we can say that the thief on the cross was, in a sense foreshadowing the New Testament reality of the new birth - born again, and only had to die once. He by grace through faith embraced the Lord presented to Him by the Spirit. Thus like that thief, you have to be born physically and then spiritually in order to be assured that when you die physically, you will be "absent from the body but present with the Lord". (2 Corinthians 5:6) The promise to all true Christians is that when they die right now, blessings will attend them (Revelation 14:13); a rich entryway will be supplied (2 Peter 1:11-12) and Jesus Himself will be there to receive them. (Acts 7:55)
This is why death, Hell or Heaven is the next big thing. My prayer is dear friend is that you are ready for it. Would it be that you would be born twice, and only have to die once. Would it be that by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that we could be in His presence in the intermediate state that lies between death and resurrection, and then the eternal state that follows for world without end.
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