Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 29 April & 06 May 2012
For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
Revelation 07 – Heaven And Other Places
According to a world-wide survey in 2007 – 63.5% of Australians believe in heaven and 23.2% believe in hell.
The highest percentages of people who believe in heaven are found in South Africa (90.7%), America (87.5%), and Ireland (85.6%). The lowest percentage is recorded in Denmark (18.4%), Czech (20.6%) and Hungary (29.2%).
On the other hand, when asked whether they believe in hell, 79.7% Irish say yes, followed by people in Iceland (78.2%) and Mexico (74.6%). At the other end of the spectrum, only 9.4% of Swedish, 9.5% of Danish and 13.1% of Czech people believe that there is hell. (See http://micpohling.wordpress.com/2007/05/27/world-religiosity-iii-belief-in-heaven-and-hell/.)
There are still more than six out of ten Australians who desire heaven in the afterlife. This is a good number – a solid majority – and – judging by the Christian background of our Western culture – it is probably true that any modern hopes about heaven and hell have originated from the Bible but – and this is also a rather safe assumption – the precise Bible teaching on these matters has been lost – (even among a fair number of Christians). Thus, we have 63.5% of Australians who believe in heaven but – and this figure is striking – almost two-thirds of them – 40% of the Australian population – hope for heaven without any corresponding awareness of hell.
Where do we get our information from? Can I ask you – where do you get your information from? This morning – I do not want to discuss what modern people consider plausible and acceptable but demonstrate what the Bible teaches about eternity. This is about your life – what will happen to you in eternity. Give the Bible a go before you settle on purely human assumptions – what the latest books claim is nice.
There are surprising facts to learn. I read to you from the Bible – Revelation 20:7-21:5:
Satan ... will go out to deceive the nations ... and to gather them for battle ... But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur ... They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
We begin by investigating in more detail what happens when the dead are raised on the day of judgement at the end of time:
Revelation 20:12-13: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne ... The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.
Revelation 21:5: He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” ...
We know from other parts of the Bible that dead people continue to live in some shape or form – immediately. For instance – (according to Jesus) – a deceased person – lost in Hades – cried out – Luke 16:24: “ ... have pity on me and send him [original: Lazarus] to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Therefore, this person was dead in Hades but had a tongue that needed cooling. In death – he continued to live and had some kind of body.
Likewise – the people of God do not cease to exist at death but – immediately – go to heaven where they – immediately – receive some kind of organic structure – Revelation 4:4: “Surrounding the throne [in heaven] were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.” Revelation 5:8: “ ... the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” According to these verses – the twenty-four elders surrounding God’s throne in heaven – the highest ranking humans in heaven – have bodies that can be dressed in white clothing, have heads that can bear golden crowns, have arms and hands that can play harps and hold golden bowls and they can sit down on their own thrones. Therefore, we must conclude that they already possess some sort of bodies.
If we assume that people in Hades and heaven continue to live with a certain shape and form – a new body of some kind of substance – then the following Bible verses do not seem to make much sense. This teaching is from the apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:17-20: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost ... But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first of a great harvest of all who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:23: But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.
1 Corinthians 15:35-57: But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” ... The [current] body ... is perishable, it is raised imperishable ... [our] natural body . is raised a spiritual body ...
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep [in the sense of being dead], but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable ...
What about the order of the resurrection: Christ first and then – at his return – those that belong to him? Who is asleep right now and will be changed in a flash – in the twinkling of an eye – at the end of time? In these verses – the apostle Paul seems to propose an understanding whereby people die and remain asleep in the ground until the last trumpet sounds. Only then the dead and their bodies are raised imperishable – just as Christ was – while those that are alive at the time will be changed – 1 Corinthians 15:52: “ ... For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” How does this work out with our previous observation that the dead do not remain in the ground but – immediately – at the point of death – continue to live in bodily form either in Hades or heaven? If they already exist in these places now, how can they – at the same time – be asleep in the ground – waiting to be raised from the dead on the last day?
The apostle Paul spelled out in another Bible segment what will happen:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: ... we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever ...
When Christ returns, those that sleep in death will be raised first and only then those that are living at the time will join Christ with them. Again – how can this make sense? If – after people have been deceased – a person in Hades can desire a drop of water to cool his tongue and the twenty-four elders in heaven can wear crowns on their heads and play harps, how can they be – at the same time – asleep in the ground to be raised first at the coming of the Lord?
For a long time – I thought that this was a most unfortunate contradiction in the Bible but then – (only recently) – I considered that Paul was unlikely to produce this contradiction in his own experience. He knew that dead people were alive in heaven because he had already been to heaven:
2 Corinthians 12:1-4: ... I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
Paul saw and heard the dead with his own eyes and ears in heaven. He met them there. He knew – just like John in the book of Revelation knew (from experience) – that those that had died believing in God were not just old bones in human graves. He knew them to be alive in heaven. Therefore – knowing that the apostle Paul was a man of intelligence – what did he mean by saying that the dead will rise from the sleep in their graves on the last day? How did he process the facts that, on the one hand, people are already alive in heaven and Hades but, on the other hand, they are asleep in the ground and will only be raised up on the last day? The contradiction disappears when we understand that the people in heaven and Hades are already alive but do not yet have the resurrection bodies which will only be given to them on the day of Jesus’ return. The resurrection that is available now – the new life that is available in heaven and Hades now – is not quite complete without a further change where people receive new resurrection bodies which somehow make use and transform the organic matter of human bodies on earth.
Before I go any further – at this point – it is interesting to consider the testimonies of those that were taking up for a visit to heaven – (like Paul, John, Ezekiel) – and heard angels and other people give them information on the human resurrection body.
H. A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil: Visions, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, (12th edition), p 67: When I cross-questioned the children as to how they knew whether the saints they saw in heaven had been resurrected or not, they said they did not know until the angels told them that they saw only the souls of the saints and that their bodies had not been resurrected. I questioned and cross-questioned in some of these matters and always got a uniform testimony: the children always saw the saints in white; the saints never had wings; all of the angels had wings; there was no difficulty in distinguishing between saints and angels.
John Bunyan: Visions Of Heaven And Hell: ... Swift as thought, he conveyed me past thousands of angels, and presented me to that great saint, the prophet Elijah. Though he had lived in the world many hundreds of years ago, I knew him at first sight. “Here is one,” said my conductor to Elijah, “who by the commission of the Imperial Throne has been permitted to visit these realms of light, and I have brought him to you, to learn from you.” “That,” said the prophet, “I shall gladly do. For it is our food and drink in these blessed regions, to do the will of God and the Lamb ...
Now give attention to what I shall speak. What you have already seen and heard, I am sure you cannot make fully understood to those not yet translated to this glorious place, who have not yet been freed from their earthly bodies. Nor is my being here in the body any objection to what I say; for although it has not been subject to death—yet it has been transformed. It has been made spiritual, and is no longer able to suffer ...
These are some of the things which make our souls happy. However, the happiness of the saints in heaven will not be complete until their bodies are resurrected and united with their souls. I will therefore show you what the resurrection body shall be like: First, the resurrection bodies of the blessed, will be spiritual bodies, like mine. You may better understand this not only by seeing but by touch. (After saying this, the holy prophet was pleased to give me his hand.) They will be bodies which are purified from all corruption—yet will have substance. They will not be like wind or air, as people on earth sometimes foolishly imagine.” [It seems that Elijah already possesses the resurrection body which others will only gain at Jesus’ return. He was one that did not die but – with his body transformed – ascended to heaven directly.]
Then I said to him that I always understood spiritual as the opposite of material, so I thought that a spiritual body must be immaterial, and not capable of being touched or felt as I found his hand was. To this the prophet replied that their bodies were spiritual, not only because they were purified from all corruption—but as they were sustained by the enjoyment of God without needing food, drink, or sleep.
Beholding the Lord is what supports both their souls and their bodies, and is what they live upon forever. “Have you not read,” said the prophet, “that the blessed Jesus, after His resurrection, appeared in His body to His disciples when they were met together in a chamber and the doors shut about them? And yet He called to Thomas to come and reach forth his hand and thrust it into His side, which shows it had substance.” ...
While I was talking with the prophet a shining form drew near. It was one of the redeemed. He told me he had left his body below resting in hope until the resurrection; and that though he was still a substance yet it was an immaterial one, not to be touched by mortal ...
The people in heaven and Hades are still waiting for the resurrection of their bodies – there is another transformation coming – even though they are already alive and already possess some shape and form. Now – for me – this clears up another confusing question which I have had for years. Why was Jesus’ grave empty on the day of his resurrection? If people that die, leave their bodies behind and become spiritual beings in heaven, why should the grave be empty? If all we ever expect is to leave the shell of our bodies behind and move to heaven with our souls and spirits only, then bodies have no further use and even Jesus’ body should have stayed in the tomb – an empty shell. Only, the tomb was not empty because – somehow – Jesus used his old body – transformed the physical matter of his tortured flesh – and rose with a new kind of spiritual body which – nevertheless – had substance and some of the hallmarks of the earlier body. E.g.: Jesus was able to eat (Luke 24:42-43). He showed people his hands and feet, with the nail prints in them (Luke 24:39; John 20:27) He breathed on his disciples (John 20).
The Bible teaches that our resurrection will follow the lead of Jesus – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23: “ ... Christ is the first of a great harvest of all who have died ... everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life ... Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.” Therefore – on the day of his return – alive as we may already be in heaven or Hades – we will also experience the transformation of our old human bodies – the bodies that sleep in the grave – and receive new resurrection bodies as this world comes to an end. Like his tomb – our graves will also be empty.
[One could discuss what might happen to particular molecules and organic matter. Would God gather again the ashes of cremated bodies? Those that are more scientifically minded might want to speculate on these things but – for now – I do not want to go beyond the Bible evidence.]
[After his resurrection – Jesus does not always seem to appear in the same bodily form (e.g.: Luke 20; John 20; Acts 9; Revelation 1; Revelation 4; people’s testimonies) but this may be traced back to his unique status of being God and man at the same time. In this respect, he differs from his human disciples who will be raised from the dead at his return.]
We come back to our first Bible reading – Revelation 20:7-21:5 – and pick up on another piece of information:
Revelation 21:1-5: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” ...
None of us are going to argue with this promise. This is fantastic! There will be no more tears in heaven – no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain – nothing whatsoever – not even a burnt piece of toast in the morning – that will dampen our spirits. Our joy will be perfect.
Already now – by the power of God’s Spirit – his joy can fill our lives – 1 Peter 1:8-9: “ ... Though now you do not see Him [Jesus Christ], yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” However, there is a joy and happiness waiting for us that we cannot even begin to fathom. Those that have been taken for visits to heaven – like Ezekiel, Paul and John in the Bible – struggle to put their feelings and experiences into words. John Bunyan probably received more instruction on this matter than most because the prophet Elijah explained to him in more detail the joys of heaven:
William Booth: Visions, 1998 edition, p7: Still I am constrained to say no human eye ever beheld such beauty, no earthly ear ever heard such music, no human heart ever experienced such ecstasy as it was my privilege to see and hear and feel during the first hours I spent in the celestial country.
John Bunyan: Visions Of Heaven And Hell: ... Elijah explained to John Bunyan in heaven: “ ... in this full state of happiness I cannot utter all that I enjoy, nor do I know what shall yet be enjoyed, for here our happiness is always new.”
I then asked the blessed prophet to explain himself. I did not understand how happiness could be complete, and yet still be added to. The following was his reply:
“When the soul and body are both perfectly happy, as mine now are, I count it a complete state of happiness. For throughout all the coming ages of eternity, it is the soul and body joined together in the blessed resurrection state, which shall receive this happiness. But concerning the object of our happiness, which is the ever adorable and blessed God, our vision of Him is forever new. For as the divine perfections are infinite, nothing less than eternity can be sufficient to display their glory. This makes our happiness eternally added to, as well as our knowledge of Him to be eternally progressive also.”
However – as much as heaven will be a place of pure joy – at the present time this is not yet the case. If you die today and go to heaven, you will not be in total bliss – not yet – but you continue to share in some of the cares and troubles of this world. Don’t get me wrong. You will not suffer depression or anxiety attacks but – in the midst of the most glorious joy – there are still moments of heartache – born out of love.
In this respect – again – some of the testimonies of people who have been to heaven are instructive:
Roberts Liardon: We Saw Heaven, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2000, p34: The man spoke with Jesus about what we would call revival. I realized that the inhabitants of heaven have knowledge of events here on earth – not so much political events as what is going on spiritually, such as the movements of God, of the enemy, and of human beings. The man also talked about his family on earth and his concerns for them, again confirming to me that in heaven people understand what is happening in their physical and spiritual families’ lives on earth. If you have family members who have gone to heaven, they are aware of what is happening in your life and how you are doing.
William Booth: Visions, 1998 edition, p10-13 (the record of a dream): He spoke first. Had he not done so, I could never have summoned courage to address him ... He informed me that my advent was known throughout a certain district of the celestial region, where were gathered the ransomed spirits who had come from the very neighbourhood in which I had formerly resided. The tidings of my arrival had been flashed through the heavenly telephone of that particular district ... All who had known me on earth; all who had any knowledge of my family; my opportunities for helping on the Kingdom of Christ, whom they worshipped and adored, were burning to see me, and to hear me tell of the victories I had won, and the souls I had blessed when on earth, and all were specially anxious to hear if I had been the means of bringing salvation to the loved ones they had left behind.
As all this was poured into my soul by my visitor, I knew not which way to look. Again and again I remembered my life of ease and comfort. What could I say? How could I appear with the record of my life before these waiting spirits? What was there in it better than a long-drawn story of self-gratification ? I had no martyr experiences to recount. I had sacrificed nothing for His dear sake worth naming on earth, much less worthy of being published in Heaven.
My mind was running in this direction, when I think my visitor must have discerned what I was thinking about, and felt some pity for me, seeing that he spoke again “Where you find yourself,” he said, “is not actually Heaven, but only one of its forecourts. Presently the Lord Himself, with a procession of His chosen ones, will come to take you into the City itself, where you will reside, if He deems you worthy; that is, if your service on the battlefield below has pleased Him.”
[Later William Booth met Jesus in the forecourts of heaven and this is what he wrote about the encounter: ... Some invisible and irresistible force compelled me to look up, and His eyes met mine once more. I felt, rather than heard Him say to me, in words that engraved themselves in living fire upon my excited brain : “Go back to earth. You shall have another opportunity ; and if you prove yourself worthy of My name, and show to the world that you possess My Spirit, by doing My work, and by making yourself a saviour of men, you shall return hither, and I will give you a place in My conquering train, and a share in My everlasting glory.” Jesus gave William Booth another chance to receive the rewards of those in his conquering train. This did not seem to be about general salvation but special recognition.]
“Meanwhile I have obtained permission to come and speak to you concerning a soul, who, I understand, lives near your late residence, and in whom I feel a deep interest. Our knowledge of the transactions of earth is, for our own sakes, very limited, but now and then we are permitted to get a glimpse of what is passing there. Can you,” he said, looking at me with an unspeakable longing, “tell me anything of my son? He was my only son. I loved him dearly-loved him too much. I spoiled him when a child. He had his own way. He grew up wilful, passionate, and disobedient. My example helped him not;” and here a cloud for a moment settled upon that beautiful brow, but vanished as quickly as it came.
“Memory has been busy of late with that melancholy chapter of my life,” he said, as though talking to himself; and then he returned to the story of his prodigal son ... “and now,” he added, “where is my boy? Oh! give me some tidings of my boy. He lived near you, I believe. He had business dealings with you. Is he saved? What did you do for him? Is there any hope? Tell me what his feelings to my Lord were when you last spoke to him!”
He ceased speaking. My heart sunk within me. What could I say? I knew the boy. The story of the father’s death and his prodigal son had been told me, and yet I had never addressed one serious word to the young man about his soul, or about his Saviour. I had been busy with other things. And now what could I say to his father as he stood there before me? I was dumb!
The cloud I had noticed before gathered again on the face of my visitor, only with a darker shadow this time. He must have guessed it all. He looked at me with a glance, which expressed the disappointment to himself and the pity for me which he evidently felt. Then he turned from me, and, suddenly spreading forth his white wings, he soared away out of my sight ...
... she, too, had come from the very same neighbourhood where I had lived so long. She told me her name. I had heard it before. She was a widow, who had struggled with great difficulties. Her husband’s death had been her life. Converted at his grave, she had given herself up unreservedly to fight for the Lord. Her children had been her first care. They had all been converted and entered the battlefield, except one.
That unsaved one was a girl, who had been her mother’s delight. She had grown up lovely in form, the village pride; but, alas! had gone astray. It was the old story of wrong and seduction and cruel abandonment, with all the consequent train of miseries. The mention of that name brought a similar saddening cloud over her lovely face to that which had dimmed the bright visage of my first visitor; but, as in his case, the cloud vanished almost as soon as it appeared.
I listened to the story as it came from this mother’s heart. I had heard something of the painful incident when on earth; but I had turned my ear away from it as being no concern of mine. Little did I ever think I was going to be confronted with it in Heaven.
And now the bright spirit turned on me those beautiful eyes, gleaming with love and pity, and spoke again: “My daughter lived near you; you know her. What have you done for her? Have you saved my child ?”
At this I must have cried out in agony. I know I put my hands before my eyes, for I could no longer bear to meet her glance. How long she continued to look on me with her powerful, piercing, pitying eyes I know not; but when I withdrew my hand she was gone, and the silvery sheen of her dazzling wings marked her out to my searching gaze like a speck on the distant blue.
Again I gasped out, “Oh! my God I is this Heaven? Will these interrogations go on for ever? Will the meanness and selfishness of my past life, with all their sad consequences – from which I had hoped for ever to have got away in this country –haunt me every day and every hour throughout the coming eternity? ...
Roberts Liardon: We Saw Heaven, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2000, p51-52: We left the building, and as we walked along, Jesus began to weep. I was astounded. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, began to cry! He turned toward me, shedding tears of intercession. Some things are too sacred to repeat, but this one thing he told me I could tell:
“Roberts, I love my people so much that I would go back to earth, preach my three years over again, and die for just one person. If I had not already paid the price for them, and if I thought they wanted to come to heaven, I would do it all over again.
I would not have to know they would make it. If I just thought they wanted to come, I would do it for them, even if they were the greatest sinners of all.”
He said repeatedly, “I love my people so much. Why do people not take me at my word? Do they not know that I have all power in heaven and on earth to back up what I said? It is so easy. I made it so simple. If people will just take me at my word, I will do what I said.”
Then he wept even more and said, “I do not understand why people say they believe I will do something, but when it does not happen in their time, they begin to doubt my word. If they will just believe and say with confidence that I will do it, I will do it at the correct time.”
I knew that Jesus was crying because of our unbelief and lack of faith. Even though I was only eight years old, I knew what unbelief was and how it hurt him. I made a covenant, an agreement and solemn commitment, with Jesus right then never to doubt his words, and let God be God. Now when I am about to think or say something filled with doubt, I remember the tears of intercession that fell from Jesus’ eyes, and I rid myself of doubt and unbelief. Unbelief slaps Jesus in the face; it is rejection of him. He wants us to be filled with faith – strong faith!
Jesse Duplantis: Heaven. Close Encounters Of The God Kind, Tulsa: Harrison House 1996, p79-81: ... I saw tears well up in His eyes as He made the next statement to me. He said, “The worst day of my life is yet to come.” Then suddenly the Father was speaking through the Lord Jesus Christ—God—was sharing with His creation. He said, “You know that Scripture where I said I will wipe away all tears in heaven?”
“You know, Lord, I’ve never truly understood that,” I replied. I knew that John spoke of God’s plan to remove all tears in Revelation 21:1-5: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
Now Jesus was explaining this mystery to me saying, “Those include the tears in my eyes, Jesse. On that great Judgment Day, I will have to tell some of the creation I love to depart from me. I dread that day. I dread it! I dread it!”
He had tears in His eyes when He was saying this. It touched my heart. We always focus on God wiping tears from our eyes. We do not understand the love that God has for us. I wanted to reach out to Him and comfort Him, so I put my hand on the Lord. I didn’t know what else to do. I could tell that Jesus was hurting.
There were other times in Scripture that we knew Jesus cried. When He wept for Jerusalem he could change the situation. We saw His tears for Lazarus, but He raised Lazarus from the dead. We saw His tears at the crucifixion, but He changed that memory with His resurrection. But once the judgment comes, He can’t change it. His Word will be final. When He has to turn man away, His most prized possession, He can’t change it back. He dreads that day.
Then He said, “Jesse, it’s final. I can’t change it. Tears flowed from my eyes the day my creation, Adam, fell. But I knew I would send myself. I had a chance to touch people. But that day is coming, and it’s final. Once it’s said, I can’t change it. I have to wipe the tears from my eyes.”
The Lord was firm with me, “Tell them I’m coming, Jesse.”
I said, “Lord, when are You coming back?”
He didn’t answer me directly but He said, “Everyone looks for the signs when they ought to look for My witness.”
I understood Him to mean that we are looking at the signs of the times as the return of the Lord. He wants us to look at the witness of Who He is, the Person of Jesus Christ.
As long as this fallen world continues – as long as the battle for the salvation of souls continues – as long as people suffer and make choices that destroy their lives – (here and forever) – there is heartache in heaven. No one in heaven is living in splendid isolation from the troubles of this world but everyone is engaged. As one sinner repents, all of the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10) and everyone marks their calendar. According to the Bible – the people on earth are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses which consists of people who are already in heaven – Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us ... ” These witnesses – the people in heaven – cheer us on – they root for us – as we run the race here on earth with perseverance. There is empathy which is feeling the highs and lows of how we are doing on earth. (Therefore, give your believing mother or father or other close people who have died in the faith before you, a reason to cheer in heaven. This morning – let them know that you are coming – that you are saved.)
We know from eyewitnesses – (Peter, James and John) – that – at one time – Moses and Elijah had come from heaven to meet Jesus on the summit of a mountain where they conversed with him about his upcoming death on the cross (Luke 9:31). This was not just a friendly chat but there was an awareness of the pain which Jesus would suffer. Likewise – right now – in heaven – human people co-rule the world with God – (albeit as junior partners). Twenty-four of us sit on their own thrones around the throne of God – with crowns on their heads – and they hold bowls which are filled with the prayers of all of God’s people. The twenty-four are the ones that are offering them to God – presenting them to him. You cannot co-rule the world with God and hold in your hand the prayers of desperation from around the globe and not be touched by them and the task at hand. You are not going to be gloomy and pressed down because you are no longer struggling with unbelief. You know that God has all the power and you know that he reigns with supreme wisdom – victory is assured – but – nevertheless – you are engaged and feel the intensity of the warfare.
Revelation 4:4: Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
Revelation 5:8: ... and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.
At one point, John witnessed in heaven how those that had died in persecution were becoming agitated and impatient – Revelation 6:9-11: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” He himself even cried (out of ignorance) – Revelation 5:4: “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” Thus, the promise of no more tears in heaven still lies in the future and will only be fulfilled when Jesus returns and this world comes to an end. Then, the battle with evil – finally – has come to an end.
There is more surprising information contained in our first Bible reading:
Revelation 20:13-21:5: The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband ... He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
According to these verses – at this point of time – neither hell nor heaven are what they will be in eternity. For instance – the place which we call “hell” and this Bible reading calls “lake of fire” is not being filled yet. According to these verses – the dead are – at present – in (Death and) Hades and only after the final judgement will they be consigned to hell – the lake of fire. Before the final judgment – in Hades – unbelievers may suffer under the torture of demons and Satan but when hell is opened – when the lake of fire becomes operational – Satan, his demons and all unbelievers will suffer the same fate of eternal separation from God and unending pain:
Revelation 20:13-21:5: ... and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:10: And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur ... They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Matthew 25:41: Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’
When demons met Jesus, they knew the fate that was awaiting them in the end – Matthew 8:29: “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Mark 9:42-48: ... If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out ... And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Revelation 14:10-11: ... They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.
This is serious. First – the dead are held in (Death and) Hades but – then – on the day of judgement – unbelievers are consigned to hell. Together with Satan and his angel demons – unbelievers are thrown into the lake of fire and never come out.
How are we hearing this? No one wants to end up in hell and – (I know) – it is not even nice to talk about hell but – as we heard in the beginning – only 23.2% of Australians believe in hell which means that 76.8% – almost eight out of ten Australians – are not aware of the danger of a most horrible future in eternity. If we love them, we warn them. This morning – know this for yourself. You need to be saved. Unless you put your trust in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross – for you and your sins – you will end up in the lake of fire. You are not as wicked as the devil or his demon angels but this will not save you because sin is sin and any sin separates us from God. There is nothing that we can do to make ourselves clean but it is the blood of Jesus that is washing us spotless – washing away all of our unrighteousness. The power of his blood is his gift to you. This morning – take it. Salvation is a gift. It is free. Simply trust Jesus.
Colossians 1:21-23: Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel ...
As hell is not open yet – at least not for the majority of those that have died without faith (cf. Revelation 19:20) – so heaven is not where it will be in the future. Heaven is already in existence – it is not “empty” like the lake of fire – but – on the day of judgement – it will come down from wherever it is right now and take the place of our current earth. The current heaven will become the new earth and we – as promised – will reign on the earth in the eternal presence of God for ever and ever (Revelation 5:10; 22:5). Listen again to the first Bible reading:
Revelation 21:1-5: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Is this confusing? I hope not. It may be something that you may not have investigated in more detail before – (I have certainly not preached it before) – but it is a good topic because it is about our future which can be very happy. We may summarize some of our findings and then move on: 1) Dead unbelievers – the souls and spirits of the unbelievers – not their bodies – are placed in Hades where they wait until Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. Then – after the final judgement – together with Satan and the demons – they will be thrown into hell – the lake of fire. 2) Dead believers – the souls and spirits of believers – not their bodies – are taken to heaven where they wait until the end of this world. Then – at the return of Jesus – they receive their new resurrection bodies and descend with all of heaven upon earth because the first heaven and the first earth will have passed away. God is making everything new. [End of Segment 1]
It may now be interesting to take another look at the places where the dead are held until judgement day. Our first Bible reading identified the place for unbelievers as Death and Hades – Revelation 20:13-21:5: ... and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them ... Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire ... ” In the very first chapter of Revelation – Jesus announced himself to John with these words – Revelation 1:18: “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of Death and Hades.” As Jesus had overcome death on the day of his resurrection, he now had the power to open up Death and Hades at will – he was holding the keys – and deal with this realm of the dead. Jesus was the person that would bring changes to Death and Hades. (He will empty Hades.)
The best description of Hades was given by Jesus himself. I read from the Bible:
Luke 16:19-31: There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
Before Jesus came – the dead all went to Hades – (the same place is also known as Sheol which is simply the Hebrew word for the Greek term Hades) – but there seemed to have been two sides – divided by a great chasm. On the one side was torment and on the other side was Abraham’s bosom which can also be identified as paradise (see also Jesse Duplantis’ testimony). At Jesus’ death and resurrection – Abraham’s bosom or paradise moved from Hades to heaven because we know that believers are with him now in heaven (Luke 23:43; Revelation). Hades – however – the compartment of Hades for unbelievers – will remain unchanged until the end of time when Hades will be emptied into the Lake of Fire and Abraham’s bosom or paradise will descend with the Holy City from heaven to earth.
I hope that this has not been too confusing. Let me spell this out again: 1) Before Jesus came – Hades consisted of two parts: a) torment for unbelievers and b) comfort for believers in Abraham’s bosom or paradise. 2) At Jesus’ victory on the day of his resurrection – Abraham’s bosom or paradise moved to heaven where believers are with him now. 3) The torment section of Hades remained where it was. 4) At Jesus’ return and the final judgement – Hades will be emptied into the Lake of Fire and 5) Abraham’s bosom or paradise will descend with all of heaven upon earth when God is making everything new.
We have a look at a few more Bible verses about Hades and also heaven:
Psalm 63:9: But those who seek my life, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
Proverbs 15:24: The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from Sheol below.
Isaiah 14:9-15: Sheol from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming ... Your pomp is brought down to Sheol ... Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.
1 Samuel 28:11-15: Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” ... And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” ... [Before Jesus came – even a righteous man like Samuel was not in heaven above but Sheol below.]
Acts 2:27: ... you will not abandon me to the realm of Hades, you will not let your holy one see decay.
Luke 24:50-51: When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Acts 1:9-11: After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Another impression which we get from these verses is that Hades is below the ground and heaven is above the sky. People descend to Hades but ascend to heaven. For what it is worth – and I am not claiming to know the precise whereabouts of Hades and heaven – this is what people have experienced when God has taken them to these places “in the Spirit”:
2 Corinthians 12:2-4: I know a man in Christ who ... was caught up to the third heaven ... And I know that this man ... was caught up to paradise ...
Revelation 4:1: After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here ... ”
Todd Bentley, The Reality Of The Supernatural World, Ladysmith: Sound Of Fire Productions 2005, p85: There is an experience associated with getting to the third heaven. It’s pretty easy to discern, because it usually involves being caught up. The times that I’ve been there I actually felt like I was in a massive vacuum cleaner being sucked through the roof. Yes, through the roof! First I saw blue sky, and then the blue sky ended and gave way to black sky with stars and planets. There were flashing lights and a feeling of g-forces, vibrations, and tremendous speed. When that ended, I landed on the ground in some place. The first thing I asked was, “Where am I?”
Roberts Liardon: We Saw Heaven, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2000, p25-26: Suddenly – without any warning – the bed, my room, and even my body disappeared. As this happened, the first thing I felt was an energy or presence, which I now know was the anointing and presence of God. Of course, as an eight year old, I wasn’t able to identify it that way. I felt myself being pulled through the roof of my house at a high rate of speed. As I moved over the earth, I began to see the oceans as if from a distance, and moving further through space, I saw the lights in the heavens ... The third heaven ... produces the feeling of a geographical location, a definite place at the top of the universe, from which all else proceeds ...
H.A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, p29: The Adullam children said they went to the third heaven. As they passed through the first heaven they felt air on their faces. Having passed the second heaven, they looked back upon the stars in their wonderful beauty, much as from a mountain height a person might gaze down upon a beautiful, light-studded city below. From this starry heaven they passed on into the third heaven until they came to the Heavenly Jerusalem.
John Bunyan: Visions Of Heaven And Hell: To this the angel replied, “The joy of the Lord shall be your strength.” When he had said this, he took hold of me and said, “Fear not, for I am sent to show the things you have not seen.” Then before I was aware, I found myself far above the earth, which seemed now to be very small.
Then I said to my bright conductor, “Please let it not offend you if I ask a question or two.” To this he replied, “Speak on. It is my work to answer whatever you ask. For I am a ministering spirit, sent forth to minister to you and to those who will inherit salvation.” Then I said, “Please inform me about that dark spot below, which has grown smaller and smaller as we have mounted higher, and which appears much darker since I have come into this region of light.”
My conductor replied, “That little spot that now looks so dark and despised is the world which you have lived on. To obtain one small part of that spot of earth so many men have risked and lost their immortal souls; which are so precious that the Prince of Peace has told us that though a man could gain the whole world, it would not equal so great a loss. As you have ascended higher towards heaven, the world has appeared still smaller and more insignificant; and it will appear the same to all who can by faith get their hearts above it. If men below could but see the world as it is, they would not covet it as they do now, but alas, they are in a state of darkness. And what is worse, they love to walk in this darkness. For although the prince of Light came down among them and showed them the true light of life—yet they go on in darkness and will not bring themselves to the light, because their deeds are evil.”
Then I asked him, “What are those multitudes of black and horrible forms that hover in the air above the world? I would have been much afraid of them, but I saw that as you passed by, they fled; perhaps not being able to abide your brightness.” To this he answered me, “They are the fallen angels which for their pride and rebellion were cast down from heaven. They wander in the air by decree of the Almighty, being bound in chains of darkness and kept unto the judgment of the great day. They are permitted to descend into the world, both for the trial of the elect, and for the condemnation of the wicked. And although you see that they now have black and horrible forms—yet they were once the sons of Light. They once were clothed in robes of glorious brightness, like what you see me wear. But the loss of this, although it was the result of their own willful sin, fills them with anger and hatred against the ever blessed God Whose power and majesty, they fear and hate.
“Tell me,” I said, “O blessed conductor, have they no hopes of being reconciled to God again, after some term of time, or at least some of them?” “No, not at all. They are lost forever. They were the first that sinned, and had no tempter; and they were at once cast down from heaven. Besides, the Son of God, the blessed Messiah by Whom alone salvation can be gained, did not take upon Himself the angelic nature. He left the apostate angels all to perish, and took upon Himself only the seed of Abraham. For this reason they have so much hatred against the sons of men, because it is a torment for them to see men made the heirs of heaven—while they are doomed to hell.”
By this time we were above the sun. My conductor told me this mighty globe of fire was one of the great works of God. Yet all the stars were not less wonderful; whose great distance away makes them appear like candles in our sight. They hang in their appointed places without any support. Nothing but His word that first created them, could keep them in their station.
“These words are enough,” I said to my conductor, “To convince anyone of the great power of their Creator, and to show the evil of that unbelief which questions the being of the God who has given so many evidences of His power and glory. If men were not like beasts still looking downwards, they could not help but acknowledge His great power and wisdom.”
“You speak what is true,” he replied. “But you will see far greater things than these. These are but the scaffolds and outworks to that glorious place, that the glorified above inhabit. A view of it shall now be given to you—as far as you are able to comprehend it.”
In a few moments I found what my conductor had told me was true. For I found myself transferred into heaven, where I saw things that are impossible to describe, and heard beautiful songs that I could never sing. Whoever has not seen that glory can speak but very imperfectly of it, and those who have seen it cannot tell the thousandth part of what it is ...
Dr. Percy Collett: I Walked In Heaven With Jesus: It happened on this fashion: We were all praying in unison ... During some of the dreams that I had about Heaven, it was always going up, up, up beyond the sun and the moon. And It happened that way.
My Angel appeared to me among the trees. It had rained that day and the flowers were fresh and looming, the grass looked so green and everything looked so pretty; the sky was blue and fair, not a cloud in the sky. As my soul had left my body and my soul looked down at my own body, my Guardian Angel, he, who had been with me for so many years, said to me: “We are going to take the journey. I have not been in heaven since you were born ... ”
My soul and the Angel stood there in expectation as everyone else was still lying on their backs under the Power of the Living God. We were the only ones standing. My soul was so light and gravity had no effect on my soul. I was feeling just like a Spirit, but yet I could think and talk. It was no subconscious mind. It was my soul that soul that is spoken so much about in the Bible. And the Angel was my real Angel which is spoken so much of in the Bible.
Looking into the beautiful blue sky above, here we saw coming the Angel of the Lord and He settled at my right hand with a flaming sword of fire in his hand. And a commanding, powerful voice came from his lips: “'I have come from God the Father to take you to heaven. We are leaving right now.” We began to lift off from the ground just about like a helicopter would lift off and yet, there were no propellers, no earthly power to take us up. We were drawn upward by the power of the Living God. Very quickly, we were travelling a million miles a minute, for the journey was over three trillion miles, and yet, it was only a six hour journey. The speed in which we were travelling was millions times faster than the one in which the astronauts travel to the moon. For we would make this journey of over three trillion miles in six hours, faster than any light or darkness, or sunup, or sundown.
It seemed only a moment or two when we were passing by the sun, a spectacular sight to hold; a fire so hot that it could burn you up if you were in the natural. But, the heat of the sun did not hurt us or bother us. The eyes of my soul could look right into the sun, one of God’s spectacular creations; the fire that God put there to keep the earth warm, to make the crops grow. If ever man could harness the sun, he would have more power than he needed.
But, we were going beyond the sun to God the Father, the greatest fire and power of all because God is a consuming fire. We were going to his throne to see fire hotter than any other in all the universe. As we passed the sun and this present solar system, this creation where the earth whirls around in, Jupiter and Mars, and all the others; this became real to me. I had heard about it; I had thought about it, but, of course I had never experienced it before.
After passing the sun at millions of miles a minute, we came to another sun and another solar system and planets all around it. And then, another one that was just being created by God, where the New Earth will be going around and around. I have been telling of this New Earth and this New Ball of Fire ever since I came back from Heaven. And at last the scientists have found it; they are seeing it on their tremendous telescopes, substantiating the facts and the truths of my journey.
Then, after passing God's New Creation and coming out of billions of square miles of beautiful stars, singing and glorifying God, the ones that God had put in place to worship him, we could now see heaven in the midst of all these stars, the tremendous planet, HEAVEN, so spectacular and so BIG, eighty times larger than the Earth! There was Heaven, in the midst of all the stars, surrounded by fire, and lighting, and clouds. The Gates of Heaven were open and now all three of us were inside . WE HAD TRAVELED OVER THREE TRILLION MILES IN SIX HOURS!
John Bunyan: Visions Of Heaven And Hell: [In this account, the word “hell” is used for “Hades” as the present place of unbelievers.] Then the bright messenger who had brought me to heaven returned. “I have,” said the angel, “a commission to return you to the earth from where I took you, after first visiting the regions of the prince of darkness. There you will see the reward of sin, and what Justice has prepared as the judgment of those who would exalt themselves above the throne of the Most High God.”
To leave heaven for earth, was extremely disappointing. But to leave heaven for hell, turned my very heart within me! However, when I knew that it was God's good pleasure, I was a little comforted. So I said to my bright conductor, “That which God has ordered I shall always be willing to obey. Even in hell I will not be afraid—if I may have His presence with me there.”
To this my shining guardian replied, “Wherever the blessed God grants His presence—there is heaven, and while we are in hell He will be with us.” Then bowing low before the Almighty’s throne, swifter than thought, my guardian angel carried me on a speedy journey down through the heavens. When I saw the stars I told my conductor that I had heard on earth that each one of these stars had their own worlds. “But I would ask you to tell me the truth of this matter.” To this my shining guardian answered, “To Him Who is Almighty, there is nothing impossible. But from knowing that it is in His power to do this, to argue that it is His will—is no good logic in the school of heaven. We know what He pleases to reveal to us; and what He has not revealed, are secrets locked up in His own eternal counsel. For anyone to inquire into these secrets would be but bold and presumptuous curiosity. There is no doubt that He can make as many worlds as He wants—but He has not yet revealed it to us, and it is not our duty to inquire.”
By this time we had come down to the lowest regions of the air. There I saw multitudes of horrible forms and dismal dark appearances which fled from the shining presence of my bright conductor. I said, “These surely are some of the vanguard of hell—so black and so frightening are their forms!” My conductor replied, “Now we are upon the borders of hell, and these are some of the apostate spirits that wander around like roaring lions.” Soon we were surrounded with a darkness much more black than night, and with a stench far more suffocating than that of burning sulfur. My ears were likewise filled with the horrible yelling of the damned spirits, which in comparison with—would make the most discordant notes on earth, sound like beautiful music.
“Now,” said my guardian angel, “you are on the edge of hell—but do not fear the power of the destroyer. My commission from the Imperial Throne secures you from all danger. Here you may hear from devils and damned souls—the cursed causes of their endless ruin. What you ask them about, they will answer. The devils cannot hurt you, though they would want to, for they are bound by Him who has commissioned me.”
We then came within hell’s territories, placed in the caverns of the infernal deep in the centre of the earth. There, in a sulphurous lake of liquid fire, sat Lucifer upon a burning throne. His horrid eyes sparkled with hellish fury, as full of rage as his strong anger could make him. I saw that the demons that had fled from us as we approached from heaven had given notice of our coming. This had put all hell in an uproar, and made Lucifer release horrid blasphemies against the blessed God with an air of arrogance and pride ...
We then passed on to see more sorrowful scenes. I saw two wretched souls being tormented by a demon. He was continually plunging them in liquid fire and burning brimstone, while at the same time they accused and cursed each other ...
Bill Wiese: 23 Minutes In Hell: I knew that Hell's location is in the cetre of the earth. That’s where it’s at, in the centre of the earth. I understood that I was about 3700 miles deep in the earth. We know that the earth’s diameter is 8000 miles. Half way would be about 4000. I was about 3700 miles down. In Ephesians 4:9 it says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth.
Mary Baxter: A Divine Revelation Of Hell: New Kensington: Whitaker House 1993, p13-18: “Behold, My child,” Jesus said, “I am going to take you by My Spirit into hell so that you may be able to make a record of the reality of it, to tell the whole earth that hell is real, and to bring the lost out of darkness and into the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Instantly, my soul was taken out of my body. I went with Jesus up out of my room and into the sky. I knew all that was going on about me. I saw my husband and children asleep in our home below. It was as though I had died and my body was left behind on the bed while my spirit was going with Jesus up through the top of the house. It seemed as though the whole roof was rolled back, and I could see my family asleep in their beds.
I felt the touch of Jesus as He said, “Fear not. They will be safe.” He knew my thoughts. I will try to the best of my ability to tell you step-by-step what I saw and felt. Some of the things I did not understand. The Lord Jesus told me the meaning of most of them, but some things He did not tell me. I knew then, and I know now, that these things were really happening and only God could have shown them to me. Praise His holy name. People, believe me, hell is real. I was taken there by the Spirit many times during the preparation of this report.
Soon we were high into the heavens. I turned and looked at Jesus. He was full of glory and power, and such peace flowed from Him. He took my hand and said, “I love you. Fear not, for I am with you.” At that, we began to go even higher into the sky, and now I could see the earth below. Protruding out of the earth and scattered about in many places were funnels spinning around to a center point and then turning back again. These moved high above the earth and looked like a giant, dirty type of slinky that moved continuously. They were coming up from all over the earth. “What are these?” I asked the Lord Jesus as we came near to one. “These are the gateways to hell,” He said. “We will go into hell through one of them.”
Immediately, we entered one of the funnels. Inside, it looked like a tunnel, spinning around and around and back again like a top. A deep darkness descended on us, and with the darkness came a smell so horrible it took my breath away. Along the sides of this tunnel were living forms embedded in the walls. Dark gray in color, the forms moved and cried out to us as we passed. I knew without being told that they were evil. The forms could move but were still attached to the walls. A horrible smell came from them, and they screeched at us with the most awful cries. I felt an invisible, evil force moving inside the tunnels. At times in the darkness, I could make out the forms. A dirty fog covered most of them.
“Lord, what are these?” I asked as I held on tightly to Jesus' hand. He said, “These are evil spirits ready to be spewed out on the earth when Satan gives the orders. “
As we were going down inside the tunnel, the evil forms laughed and called out to us. They tried to touch us, but could not because of the power of Jesus. The very air was polluted and dirty, and only the presence of Jesus kept me from screaming at the sheer horror. Oh, yes, I had all my senses-I could hear, smell, see, feel and even taste the evil in this place. If anything, my senses had become more sensitive, and the odour and filth almost made me sick.
Screams filled the air as we came near the base of the tunnel. Piercing cries came up the dark tunnel to meet us. Sounds of all sorts filled the air. I could feel fear, death and sin all around me. The worst odour I have ever smelled filled the air. It was the smell of decaying flesh, and it seemed to be coming from every direction. Never on earth had I felt such evil or heard such cries of despair. Soon I would find that these were the cries of the dead and that hell was filled with their wails.
I felt a gust of evil wind and a small suction force ahead of us. Lights like lightening or strobe flashes penetrated the black darkness and threw gray shadows on the walls. I could barely make out the form of something in front of me. I recoiled in shock when I realized that it was a large snake moving along ahead of us. As I continued to look, I saw those ugly snakes were slithering about everywhere.
Jesus said to me, “We will soon enter the left leg of hell. Ahead you will see great sorrow, pathetic sadness and indescribable horror. Stay close to Me, and I will give you strength and protection as we go through hell.
According to the Bible’s general directions – down below for Hades and up for heaven – and these testimonies, Hades could be located in the centre of the earth while heaven is found at the top of the universe. Please, do not think that I am insisting on these facts – they are not spelled out in detail in the Bible – but I am submitting them for your consideration.
Our first Bible reading also includes information about the final judgement at Jesus’ return. This is the last segment of this message and it is of utmost importance for all us. Who will be judged and on what basis? Before we consider the Bible evidence – I share some further testimonies from Chinese orphan children whom God also gave experiences of hell – (either Hades or prophetic experiences of the future Lake of Fire – as John was given prophetic experiences of future events in heaven) – and other visions:
Cf. H.A. Baker: Visions Beyond The Veil, Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing House, p51-57: Over and over again children had visions of hell and the lake of fire. The first time any one was under the anointing of the Spirit he usually had a vision of hell. He was bound in chains by demons and taken through a region of darkness. Some children could hear demons all about them in this region. If taken far, they could see a dim light in the distance which proved to be reflections from the lake of fire. Some children were forced so near they could see the lake of fire ahead. All the time they were pleading the blood of Christ, asserting that they would not obey and would not be subject to the slavery of their captors. They believed Jesus would surely save. We have already told how at this climax, before the lake of fire was reached, the Lord did intervene with His blood bought salvation.
The Bible pictures hell as a place of blackness and darkness, and it teaches that part of the devil's angels are now reserved in chains of darkness awaiting judgment. The children saw not only darkness in hell, but also the Lake of Fire that was always approached through a region of stygian darkness. In vision they were led to the edge of a great lake of molten fire in a semi-dark pit from which arose clouds of smoke. When the smoke settled low the fire in the lake was less distinct. When the smoke lifted a little, the burning lake with red and greenish flames and its inmates could be distinctly seen.
When the children were peering down into this pit in hell we saw them taking a firm hold on some piece of furniture or getting down on their hands and knees, cautiously bending forward to peep into the infernal regions. They looked a moment and then drew back, afraid lest they fall in. They were horrified at what they saw. Then very cautiously they looked again and drew back. Sometimes the children lay flat on their stomachs, lest they slip and fall while looking over the brink of the lake of fire.
The lost were seen going into hell. Some fell in, some walked over the brink, and some were bound by demon chains and cast into hell by demons. One boy saw groups of the wicked bound in bundles, ready to be cast into the furnace of fire. When the fire abated and the smoke settled down the moans of the miserable could be heard. When the fire at intervals increased in intensity and the smoke lifted a little there were shrieks and wails of agony.
One person was rolled on the floor and caused to cry out as would a suffering soul in hell. In the lake of fire were oceans of hands reaching up for help. Those below appealed to those looking in upon them to come to their rescue. We could hear the children talking to them just as you can hear someone talking over the telephone and get but one end of the conversation. We could hear one end of a conversation like this: “I can't help you.” “No, I cannot do anything for you.” “But when you were alive you would not obey the gospel.” “No, it is too late; before you got here I preached to you, but you made fun of me and despised Jesus. Now you know I told you the truth.” “No, I cannot do anything; this is the judgment of God.” “If you had obeyed, you would now be enjoying heaven with us.” After some such conversation the children were led away to enjoy the presence of Jesus in heaven or the glories of the golden streets of the Paradise of God ...
One boy saw his grandmother in hell, whom he had tried to win to Christ. She was once a sorceress and murderer who had withstood the gospel she heard in her village and caused many to refuse the light. Other children also had visions of relatives in hell. This tribal boy who saw his grandmother in hell was the boy who saw his little sister and his believing aunt in heaven ...
There was no vision of any one in heaven or the name of any one on the mansions by the golden streets who did not trust in Jesus. Those in hell were all unbelievers. One night when the Lord spoke through a small boy in wonderful prophecy, among the things he said was, “There will be no one in heaven except those who believe the gospel.” After the Lord had taken the boys and girls through most wonderful and systematic lessons in the Holy Spirit they nearly all came at last to the parting of the roads.
In this vision, repeated until it seemed the impression could never be forgotten, the one in vision seemed to be standing by the cross at the parting of the two great roads. The one was the narrow way of life that leads to heaven and glory; the other was the broad way to hell and destruction. Great, busy, hurrying multitudes—multitudes hustling with business, carrying great loads of sin and rushing along with the affairs of life—were passing by in endless streams and countless numbers. The child was the preacher at the cross roads. Again we heard one side of the conversation: “Hello! my friend! Please wait a minute; I want to speak to you. Say, do not go down that broad road; it leads to hell and ruin. I have been down that way and have seen hell for myself. Stop here by the cross and let Jesus wash all your sins away. From the Cross of Christ here you can start up this other road that will lead you to heaven and everlasting life and joy. Oh! that fellow does not believe it. There he goes on down the broad road. What a pity! I will stop this other man and see if he will believe. Hey there! Just a minute! Say, do not follow that crowd. They do not know where they are going. That road leads to destruction; that is the road to the lake of fire. Please don't go on. I came out here to stop as many of you as possible and give you fair warning. Better turn aside here, let Jesus wash your sins away, and go with us up the road to heaven where God is. Oh, there he goes, too! “Here is another. Wait a moment! Say, come out of that crowd. Cannot you see there is no one travelling back this way? They all go down that road; no one ever comes back. That is the broad road to hell. Stop here by the cross, believe the gospel of salvation through Jesus' blood, and you will be safe. There is no other road further on. This is the only road to heaven. Turn in here or you will be lost too. “Oh, what a pity he does not believe me. There he goes with the others.”
Sometimes the youthful preacher would decide that if no one believed him he would follow the wilful crowd to see what happened. When he arrived with the crowd at the brink of the lake of fire in hell, ee heard him say, “Look at that crowd falling into hell! Not one escapes. Everyone goes in.” Slowly drawing near the edge of the pit and leaning over and looking down into the lake with its suffering multitudes, the preacher said: “I cannot help you now. I told you all about this back there at 'the gospel cross roads,' but you would not believe. No, you would not believe, even if I could help you out. No, I am helpless now. If you had listened when I warned, the Lord would have saved you; you came on and fell in because you would not take advice. No, I can't. I am going back to the cross roads to see if I can find some one who will listen, and stop a few at any cost.”
He was occasionally successful in persuading one to listen. Then he would say, “Now, you get down there at the foot of the cross of Jesus and pray. Oh, you don't know how to pray? Well, you say what I tell you. 'Jesus, I am a sinner! I was on my road to hell. I am only fit for hell. The big load I carry is only sin. Forgive my sins and teach me to live only for your glory. Amen'.” There was rejoicing then as the sinner was saved and started up the narrow road, while the preacher went out to try to rescue another deluded traveler.
These visions, with some variations, were repeated many times, making it clear that salvation was only by repentance and belief in the blood of Christ, through the preaching of the gospel; that the many were called; that few were saved; that the road to destruction is broad and multitudes pass that way; that the way of life is narrow and few there be that find it. It was made equally clear that the Christian is to stand in the gap at the parting of the ways and persuade and warn to the limit of his ability.
We have told how the boys, even the small boys, went out at that time and preached on the streets with unction of the Holy Spirit, sometimes under direct inspiration such as we had never before witnessed.
I will close this chapter with the story of the university student who went by the cross road. Opposite our front gate lived a university student who was to have graduated from the university that year. After moving here I talked with him, asking him to come over and discuss the Bible and Christianity in a friendly way. He came a few days, and I felt certain he was convinced of the truth of what I said. The questions he raised seemed to be answered to his full satisfaction. Through him I managed to get a chance to talk with some of the other university students during their vacation. I had been going to their rooms ten days, when there came the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Adullam.
The students were friendly, and I felt that the student I have mentioned saw clearly the truth of the gospel. I could see that, although he was polite, he was not disposed to accept the truth and did not seem to like the friendly way the other students responded to the Bible discussions. One morning when one of our girls was out at our front gate it happened that this young university student was out there too. The girl began telling him he ought to be a Christian, in a simple way urging him to believe in Jesus to save him from his sins, make him a good man, save him from hell, and lead him to heaven.
“What's the use of my being a Christian ? I do not need to be saved.” “You might die suddenly in your sins, and you would go to hell.” “Who are you?” scoffed the student. “You are a little snip of an ignorant girl, just a sort of useless beggar. What do you suppose you are trying to do? You are trying to teach me something when you are not worthy to even talk to me. I am a university student. I am wise. I have read many books. I have been many years in Peking. I can speak and read English as well as Chinese.” He then spat in her face and told her to mind her own business.
Two weeks later hearing a funeral commotion in the front alley, I was surprised to learn that they were carrying this university student to his burial; I had seen him on the street a few days before. One of the boys said that as we were going out to preach, a few days previous, he had offered this young man a tract, but he would not take it. I knew nothing of this conversation with the girl.
About a month later this girl was in a trance under the power of the Spirit. After seeing visions of heaven and the glories of the redeemed she stood still and bent over as though looking into hell. This is what I heard: “Ah! There is hell. No, I cannot; I have no power to help you now. You certainly are in an awful plight. It is you who are worse than a beggar now, all dirty, all filthy, and suffering in the lake of fire. In fact, you look worse now than any beggar I ever saw. I thought you told me you were rich and that you had a great education. Where is your education now? Well, I cannot help you now even if you do apologize. That may be, but I have no power. No, only Jesus can save you, but when I told you about Him you made fun of Him and cursed me. “Look what we beggars who believe in Jesus have received in heaven: all is joy, all is happiness; all is love in the city of golden streets with its wonderful Paradise of God.”
Then the girl seemed to be crossing the lake of fire over a narrow bridge. We saw her walking as though she were walking a rope, placing one foot carefully in front of the other while extending her arm on either side until she recovered her balance. With a sigh of relief she said, “My! this is dangerous! But the Lord will help me. I will get across to the other side.” Then she carefully brought the other foot forward and nearly lost her balance again. She praised the Lord until she recovered her balance and proceeded as before. In this way having crossed the room, she seemed to be safely in heaven, past every danger of ever falling into the lake of fire.
When Jesus returns, he will come back to judge – make a final decision on who belongs to him and who is going to heaven and hell – and we will have a look at the precise nature of this judgement in a few minutes but – as we can learn from the experiences of the Chinese orphans and all of the Bible – the most important lesson that you can ever learn in your life is this one: The outcome of the final judgement – the question on where you will be in eternity – is dependent on your life right now. You decide which road you want to follow: either respond to Jesus and his promptings or walk away from him and live for yourself or some other god. What you do now – even today – determines what Jesus will say to you on the day of his return and the final judgement.
The Bible leaves you in no doubt that now is the time which decides your future:
John 3:16-18: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. [The decision of salvation or condemnation is already made now in our response to Jesus. If we trust him, we are saved. If we do not believe, we are condemned and the final judgement is simply ratifying this fact.]
John 5:22-27: Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father ... whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life ... [Jesus is going to do the judging but those that respond to his word with faith have already crossed over from death to life and will not be judged.]
John 12:47-48: If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world ... the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. [How we respond to Jesus’ words today will determine our future fate. If we hear the words and do not accept them, we will be without excuse on the last day.]
The second reading – John 5:22-27 – seems to suggest further that the believers will actually not face the final judgement. They have already crossed over from death to life and this is confirmed in our first Bible reading:
Revelation 20:11-21:8: Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire ...
He said to me: “ ... To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
In this Bible reading – the dead, great and small, who are awaiting judgement before the great white throne are those that have emerged from Death and Hades which identifies them as unbelievers because dead believers wait for the day of judgement in heaven – not Hades. Only unbelievers are in Hades; therefore only unbelievers can emerge from there to face the judgement at the great white throne. They are the ones who are going to be judged according to “what they have done as recorded in the books”. The believers, on the other hand, have their names recorded in the “book of life” and do not face the judgement of condemnation. They do not face the “second death” in the “lake of fire”.
The unbelievers are judged according to their works – what they have done in this life – good or bad. On what basis are the names of believers recorded in the “book of life”? What must happen for your name to be in that book? This is another question which is confusing many. On the one hand – the Bible insists that we are saved by faith through grace – apart from works – and anyone wanting to become a Christian is absolutely set free from the pressure of performance – trying to save themselves by being good enough for God. This is not possible:
Galatians 2:15-16: We ... know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Jesus accepts us as we are. We turn to him – in humility – asking for forgiveness – and he saves us. He justifies us which means that he declares us righteous – innocent – without any blame – washed clean – on account of what he has done on the cross and not what we have done or might do.
Salvation is a free gift but – on the other hand – the new life of faith cannot be a life without works because any faith automatically produces good works and if it does not, it is not faith: “ ... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead ... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:14-26). In the book of Revelation – Jesus made it quite clear that good works were not optional. He demanded obedience. If his people had chosen not to listen to his instructions, they would have lost their place with him and their names would not be recorded in the “book of life”:
Revelation 2:4-7: Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first ... Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove you [original: your lampstand] from its place ... To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:10-11: Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life ... He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Revelation 21:7-8: He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.
Good works – obedience to Jesus – are not optional. We must overcome the obstacles of cooling love, fear, unbelief, sexual temptations and any forms of dishonesty and idolatry. Otherwise, there is no salvation for us.
How are we to understand this? How can salvation be a free gift – apart from works – but then demand good works in the wake of salvation? The answer is that salvation comes with the gift of new life and the gift of Jesus’ own power through the Holy Spirit by whom we do the works that are demanded from us and that we now want to do in his service. The clearest Bible illustration compares us to trees. When we become Christians, we become good trees – forgiven, empowered by the Holy Spirit, alive in God – and good trees automatically – always – they can do nothing else – produce good fruit. If there is no good fruit – no good works – then there is a problem with the tree which is our basic relationship with Jesus:
Matthew 7:17-19: Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
John 15:1-6: I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful ... No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
I may add here that – as we have said before – believers do not face the final judgement of condemnation – they will not be before the great white throne in this sense – but we also face a judgement in the sense that God is going to evaluate our works because according to our works we will receive rewards in heaven:
Romans 14:10-12: You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat ... So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15: ... no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Matthew 6:1-4: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:19-20: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Revelation 22:12: Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
I come to a close and review the ground that we have covered: 1) Before Jesus died on the cross and rose again in victory from the grave, Hades consisted of two parts: a) torment for unbelievers and b) comfort for believers in Abraham’s bosom or paradise. 2) On the day of Jesus’ victory and resurrection, Abraham’s bosom or paradise moved to heaven where believers are with him now. 3) The torment section of Hades remained where it was. 4) The souls and spirits of dead unbelievers – (not their bodies) – are placed in Hades. 5) The souls and spirits of dead believers – (not their bodies) – wait for Jesus’ return in heaven. 6) At Jesus’ return and the final judgement, Hades will be emptied into the Lake of Fire. 7) At the same time, dead believers will receive their new resurrection bodies and 8) Abraham’s bosom or paradise will descend with all of heaven upon earth when God is making everything new. 9) According to the Bible’s general sense of direction, Hades is below the ground and heaven is above the sky. 10) According to further testimonies, Hades could be located in the centre of the earth while Heaven could exist at the top of the universe. 11) The outcome of the final judgement depends on your life right now. How do you respond to Jesus? 12) Only unbelievers will face the final judgement. 13) Unbelievers will be judged according to what they have done. 14) The names of believers are written in the “book of life”. 15) Believers are saved on the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ. 16) The faith of believers and their relationship with Jesus must produce good works. 17) On the last day, Jesus will examine what believers have done and reward them according to their works.
May God be with you as you process this information. Right now – there are about 63.5% of Australians who believe in heaven but almost two-thirds of them – 40% of the Australian population – hope for heaven without any corresponding awareness of hell. I believe that this is wrong and I believe that the evidence recorded in the Bible and the testimonies of other people have to be considered. Jesus came to preach salvation to us. Listen to him. Trust him. Turn away from sin and gain eternity – a life in a new resurrection body, rewarded for good works, enjoying the glory of a new heaven and a new earth and eternal joy in the presence of our God. This is so much better than the lake of fire. Come to Jesus. Amen.
 John Bunyan: Visions Of Heaven And Hell: ... Elijah explained to John Bunyan in heaven: The prophet continued, “I will briefly tell you about our happiness here, for ages spent on this delightful theme would only begin to explain it. That you may have the best understanding, I will first explain about what the redeemed souls have been delivered from, and secondly about the happiness which they enjoy here.
Firstly, the souls of all the glorified are forever freed from everything that can make them miserable, which above all, is sin. It was sin which brought misery into creation. The blessed God at first made all things happy, like Himself. Had not sin defaced the beauty of His workmanship, angels and men would have never known what is meant by misery. It was sin which threw the apostate angels down into hell, and spoiled the beauty of the lower world. It was sin which defaced God's image in man's soul, and made the ones who were to be the lords of creation—into slaves of their own lust. It is sin which can also plunge them into an ocean of eternal misery from which is no redemption. It is an invaluable mercy that in this happy place, all the saints are forever freed from sin through the blood of our Redeemer. In the earth below, the best and holiest of souls groan under the burden of corruption. Sin clings to all that they do, and often leads them captive against their will. ‘Who shall deliver me?’ has been the cry of many of God’s faithful servants, who at the same time have been dear to Jesus. Sin is the heavy weight upon the saints, while they live in their corrupted flesh. Therefore when they lay their bodies down, their souls are like a bird loosed from its cage, and with a heavenly joy they rise up to heaven. But here their warfare is at an end, and ‘death is swallowed up in victory’. Below their souls were deformed and stained by sin—but here their bright souls by the ever-blessed Jesus are presented to the Father ‘without spot or wrinkle’.
Not only are the saints here free from sin—but also from any temptation to sin. When Adam was in paradise, though he was innocent and free from sin—yet he was not free from temptation. Satan got into paradise and Adam fatally yielded to his temptations. Like a disease, sin has eaten into the human nature and corrupted all mankind.
Here each soul is freed from this. Nothing but what is pure and holy can find admission here. That roaring lion who roams back and forth throughout the earth seeking whom he may devour, in respect to the saints in heaven, is bound fast in everlasting chains. The temptations of the world shall never again allure those who through faith and patience have overcome it, and safely arrived here. In heaven we look with contempt on all earthly enjoyments. There is nothing here that can disturb our peace—but an eternal calm crowns all our happiness.
Since we are freed from all sin and its effects, we are also rescued from punishment. After death, hell confines the unforgiven sinner to eternal misery. Yet the redeemed are delivered from all these things.
However, these things are but the least part of the happiness of heaven. Our joys are positive, more than just the negative that we have been redeemed from. What these are I shall try to show you.
Here we enjoy the sight of God, the blessed spring and eternal source of all our happiness. But what this is, I can no more fully explain—than can finite creatures comprehend infinity. Yet the sight of God continually fills our souls with unspeakable joy, and with a love so flaming that nothing but the blessed author of it can satisfy, nor eternity itself can end. It is that which makes us live, love, sing, and praise forever, while it also transforms us into His blessed likeness. Beholding God's face, we enjoy His love. His blessed smiles make glad our souls, and in His favour we rejoice continually, ‘for in His favour is life.’ And by this blessed vision of God, we come to know Him far above how any had known Him in the world below. For the sight of Him opens our understandings, and ‘gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ Here we all enjoy Him face to face. Below the saints enjoy God in a measure—but here we enjoy Him without measure. There they have some sips of His goodness—but here we drink largely and swim in the boundless ocean of happiness! Below the saints have their communion with God broken off many times—but here it is uninterrupted. Below love is mixed with fear, and fear has torment; but here love is perfect, and perfect love casts out fear. In heaven we love God more than ourselves, and one another like ourselves. Here we enjoy the perfection of all grace.
In heaven our understanding and knowledge is enlarged according to the greatness of what we can observe and think. In the world below, light could only shine into our minds through the windows of our senses, so God had to condescend to our limited capacities when revealing His Majesty. Our purest ideas of God were very imperfect—but here the gold is separated from the dross and we can conceive the holiness and purity of God. We understand about His decrees and counsels, His providence and dispensations. We clearly see here that from eternity God existed alone—but not solitary, that the Godhead is neither confused in unity, nor divided in number. We see that there is a priority of order but no superiority among the persons of the Trinity—but that they equally have the same excellency and power, and equally are adored. Those ways of God that in the world below seemed unsearchable and beyond our comprehension, we understand so clearly here by His divine wisdom, that the truth could not be made more simple.
These are some of the things which make our souls happy. However, the happiness of the saints in heaven will not be complete until their bodies are resurrected and united with their souls. I will therefore show you what the resurrection body shall be like ... ”