By Mark Hardgrove, D.Min.
Throughout our life we are faced with major decisions. Some decisions are so important that the choice we make will change the very course of our life. Our whole future will be shaped by those decisions. Not all decisions are of that nature—what color tie I wear will not have a major impact on my future—but there are those big decisions we face, decisions that once made will have an effect regardless of other choices we make afterward.
I decided to stay in school, I decided to go to college, but along the way I decided to party more than study and as a result, it took eight years to get a four year degree. Four years wasted because of bad choices.
Some choices are very big. Choosing a career is a major choice that will impact us for our entire life. Who we marry, if we will have children, or how many children we will have are major decisions in life. But the biggest choice we will ever make is a straightforward, black or white, right or wrong, decision and it is the decision between heaven or hell, not just for a lifetime, but for eternity.
God gives us options and He gives us the freedom to choose, but we need to know that there is a choice which is a matter of life and death. God pleads with us to choose life and blessing. God wants to bless us, but we must choose to live in the realm of His blessings.
In the New Testament Jesus is very graphic in describing the nature of our decisions. He said the biggest decision that we will ever make is who we will serve. As Joshua challenged the nation of Israel, we are challenged by the Word of God and the Spirit of God to choose this day who we will serve. Eternity hangs in the balance. Will we choose to live in the forgiving and transforming grace of God, or will we choose to do whatever feels good? Will we choose to do what everyone else is doing, will we choose to run with the crowd or will we choose to go with God and serve Him regardless of what others think or say? Eternity stands waiting for our decision.
When we are young we think we will live forever, but no one lives forever in the flesh. I had close friends who died young. No one is guaranteed the next breath or the next beat of the heart, and if this were your last breath where would you spend eternity? Jesus tells us there are two options—Heaven or Hell.
In various places Jesus described hell. He used images and scenes familiar to the people He spoke to. He used the words hades (which refers to the realm of the dead) and Gehenna (the place where dead bodies were dumped). Through parables and images He tells us of hell.
He tells us that ell is for eternity. In one parable He described hell as "outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Hell is a place of eternal torments. Jesus referred to the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, Gehenna, to describe hell. Gehenna, was a place outside the city where people came to dump all kinds of waste and refuse. Dead animals were dumped there, as well as, the corpses of poor people or people who had no relatives to properly bury them. It was a place where there was always smoke and fire, there was the smell of burning flesh and bodies covered with maggots.
Jesus said of hell, that like Gehenna, it is a place of fire and death and stench and the worm, or the maggot never dies. Unlike Gehenna, however, those in hell feel the flame, smell the stench, feel the worms eating at their body and yet the body does not perish.
In another parable Jesus told of a rich man who died and went to hell (hades), and in hell he lifted up his eyes and saw a poor beggar, named Lazarus, in a place of rest and peace. In hell the man felt the torment, he begged for just a drop of water on the tip of his tongue, but no water came. This man made a choice to reject righteousness, to reject doing what was right, and when he died his choice landed him in hell. And there is no way out.
But that is not the end of the story, we are told that one day, all those who are in hell will come to stand before the Beama, the Great White Throne judgment where they will be told what they did or did not do which caused them to be cast into hell. Everything done in secret will be revealed in open. Everything done under the cover of darkness will be brought to the light and everyone will know why he or she deserves hell. They will see all the chances they had to choose to do right, and then did wrong. They will remember the sermon the pastor preached while they sat whispering in the back of the church ignoring the pleas of the pastor and the pull of the Holy Spirit to come and get right with God. They will go into eternity begging for one more chance, but this life is it. We get one life to choose. After the judgment, death and hell and all who are in them, are cast into the lake of fire where they shall be "tormented day and night for ever and ever " (Rev. 20:10, 21:8).
How can a loving God send us there? He did everything He could to make a way of escape. In Ezekiel chapter 33 verse 11 God called to the lost, "As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and life: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways." His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, died on a cross and bore the full weight of an eternity of torment so that we would not have to. But if we reject His sacrifice, if we refuse to let Him be Lord of our life, then we are choosing cursing over blessing, death over life, hell over heaven. God will call us and love us to the last breath, but He will not make the choice for us. If our last breath is breathed in sin, then we will receive the wages of sin, which is death. Not merely physical death, but an eternity of death, the second death which is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Thank God there is a choice, there is another option. We call it heaven. It is a place of perfect righteousness. Nothing evil or sinful will enter there. It is described as a place of perfect peace and rest. It is a place where there will be perfect health for everyone and eternal life. It is a place where the very streets are paved with gold, the walls are of jasper, the gate is a solid pearl. It is described as the house of Father God with a room prepared for everyone who chooses ask Jesus to come into his heart and live as Lord of his life.
We are told that when we enter there Jesus will meet each of us and personally wipe away every tear. All sorrow and pain and suffering will be left outside the gate as we enter into an eternal abode of life everlasting.
But the most important part of heaven is that we will live in the presence of God. We will join the heavenly host singing the praises of God. We will be saturated in the love of God. We will be joined in an eternal reunion of brothers and sisters in Christ.
III) THE CHOICE IS OURS
He told the Israelites, "I set before you this day, life and blessing and death and curses, now you choose." He will not force His will upon us. He wants us to choose life and live. He wants us to choose to love Him. He wants us to choose to do His will. He promises to give us the grace to live according to His will, but He said we have to make the choice. And may I tell you that it is a choice we make every day. You choose to let Him be Lord of your life, and then everyday you choose to live according to His will.
What about it? Have you made your choice? Have you asked Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life? Eternity is hanging in the balance. Choose wisely and choose today to live in the realm of the blessings and life more abundant.