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The Dragnet: Silently, Constantly Advancing (Matthew Sermon 64 of 151)

The Dragnet: Silently, Constantly Advancing (Matthew Sermon 64 of 151)

August 03, 2003 | Andrew Davis

 

Introduction

We're looking this morning at the Parable of the Dragnet in Matthew 13:47-50. Now, all of you have heard the expression, and feel the weight of the truth that time flies by; it's constantly flying by. We have lots of different ways to mark time. I saw one father who took a photo of his daughter at a certain beach, at a certain place, a certain time every year for over 60 years. That's one way to mark time, just by watching your children grow up.  All of you probably have a timepiece on your wrist.  We mark time in a lot of different ways, and people have marked times through sundials and water clocks, through the pendulum clock, and Swiss movement, and quartz vibrations and all kinds of things. The clock on my wall in my office which is set forever as far as I'm concerned, anyway, for 8:50. There's nothing significant about 8:50. I just got tired of hearing at every quarter hour, half hour, and three quarters of hour the chiming of the bells, a constant reminder of the fleeing nature of time. 

Time is flying by, constantly advancing. We can use watches, and we can use constellations and stars and the sun and moon to measure the advance of time. But in Matthew 13 and in the Scriptures, we have a different way to mark time, and that is by the advance of the kingdom of heaven. The moving ahead of the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world gives us a different way to measure time. In Romans 13:11 it says that we should understand the present time. The hour has come to wake up from our slumber, because salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Time is marching on. What is time bringing us to? It's bringing us to, if we're believers in Christ, our salvation, our yet and future salvation. Salvation from what, and salvation to what? If you're here today as an unbeliever, and if the Lord were willing and I had two hours of your time, I could present an overwhelming case to you of why you should repent and trust Christ as your personal savior.   I would bring you to hell for one hour, and then I'd bring you to heaven for one hour. After those two hours, I would sit down with you and say, "Are you ready to trust in Christ?" And you would say, "Absolutely." Frankly, only one of the two would be sufficient, I think.  Either one would be fine. But you see, God has ordained in the Gospel a double blessing for those who repent and trust him. Freedom from hell, and eternity in heaven, a double blessing. God has also ordained a double curse for those who reject this message, eternity in hell, and never seeing heaven. Those two hours would change your life. But I know that God is not willing to give you that opportunity to see heaven and hell, rather he's ordained that the simple proclamation of the Word be sufficient for you —that you hear hell explained out of this text, and heaven explained clearly in other texts.  That you hear it explained and in the hearing of the word with faith and say, "That's enough for me. Just to hear that this is what the Word of God teaches, now, that's enough for me." The time would be well spent, hearing and believing the Word of God, and that's the purpose of our Savior, Jesus Christ in this parable, the parable of the Dragnet. 

The Parable of the Dragnet

Parables are given for a variety of reasons, but one of them was to explain the nature of the kingdom of heaven. I think in this particular parable Jesus is in a very special way appealing directly to his hearers. I think he's speaking to his own disciples, many of whom made their living as fishermen. They knew what these nets were, they understood, and so He's appealing directly to them.

When He first called them to be his followers, his disciples, in Matthew 4:18, as Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And then going a little further, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee repairing their nets.   So, these four disciples, who part of his inner circle, they actually felt these nets with their own hands, they knew what it was to make a living with these fish and fishermen's nets. Jesus said, "I'm going to call you to a higher form of fishing. Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." They understood. There were different ways to catch fish back then, as there are different ways to catch fish now. One simple way is to take a fishing pole with a line and some bait and drop it into the lake and catch a fish that way. We see this in Matthew 17, when Jesus is describing the need to pay the temple tax, and He talks to Peter about it and says, "We really shouldn't have to pay this tax, because we are sons of the kingdom. You shouldn't have to pay to be in your Father's house. But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line, and take the first fish you catch, and open its mouth, and you'll find a 4-drachma coin there. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."   So that's one type of fishing, a single hook, bait and line. There's also a small one-man casting net. If you could imagine a smaller net, you can put it on your shoulder, and you would cast it out into the lake. If you knew where the schools of fish approach the shore, you could just stand on the shore, and just cast it out in a kind of a spinning motion and hold on to a center line, and there are weights on the edge of this kind of small one-man casting net and they would sink down and then you could kind of pull it up like a purse and whatever was inside the net would be pulled ashore. That's the kind of net that Peter and Andrew were using when Jesus first met them.

 But then there's this large dragnet, “sagene” is the Greek word. It's this big thing that takes a whole team of fishermen to use it. There are different ways you could do it. You could go out in the middle of the lake with a number of boats and if you could imagine a big, huge net and it was just all in a big circle. And then there would again be weights and floats and they were able to fill it up, or sometimes they would just anchor more one end to the shore and take a few boats out in a big arc and they would move out in a prescribed arc, and curve around back toward the shore and then pull it when the net was full up on the shore.  The pulling and the emptying of the net could take a whole team of fishermen as many as two or three hours.  Can you imagine what kind of weight that was caught by that kind of a net? — Everything dropped over the side of the boats, different types of fish, some that you liked and some you didn’t, seaweed and all kinds of things were caught by that larger type of dragnet. That's the net that Jesus has in mind here, this large kind of dragnet, that makes a big arc out and then comes back and when it's full, then the fishermen sit down and separate the good fish from the bad.

The Separation on Judgment Day

What is the point of this parable? He’s zeroing in on the issue of the separation that will come on Judgment Day. It's a point that he's made time and time again. Just as we saw earlier with the wheat and the tares, there's going to be a separation on Judgment Day. The kingdom of heaven at present is in a mixed condition, mixed together, wheat and tares, good fish and bad fish, all kinds of fish in this dragnet. The focal point is the action of the fishermen sitting down on the shore and separating the good fish from the bad ones. The good fish are thrown in the basket, the bad ones are thrown away.  The sitting down implies a sense of finality, somewhat like Judgment Day, when it says, "When the son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory, and all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He'll put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." The sitting down really is like a picture of judgment sitting down on that judgment throne.

This parable therefore has a promise for we who are believers. The promise is that the mixed condition of the kingdom is only temporary, it's not going to go on forever. We have repeated promises in the Scripture of separation. John the Baptist said that Jesus's winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor. He'll gather the wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. We've seen earlier in Matthew 13, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and how they will be separated on Judgment Day by the angel, sheep from the goats also and here also, the good fish from the bad. There will be a great separation, the wicked from the righteous on that final day.

This goes to a very deep theological root in the nature of God. God is in the business of separating light from darkness. Just as from the very beginning when He created, He separated the light from the darkness, and He called the light good and He called it day. He also separated the water above from the water below, and the dry land from the oceans. He's in the business of separating in this way. When He called out a people for himself, the Jews, they were his chosen people, He called on them through the law of Moses to be a separate people.   In the KJB it says, “peculiar people.” Have you ever met peculiar people who are believers in Christ? What that means is a separate people, a people separate from the surrounding nations. They're not to be like the pagans that surrounded them in the Promised Land. The Book of Leviticus is all about holiness, it's about separation. “You must be holy,” says the Lord, “because I am holy, and therefore you're not to eat these things, and you're supposed to wear certain clothes.” There was an outward physical visible aspect to this separation that God called his people to.  When they entered the Promised Land, they came to Jericho, and God said the whole city is under the ban of holiness. Everything in that city is mine, it's the first city you're going to conquer in the Promised Land.  You must take nothing of the plunder, all of it is mine and if any of the plunder is found in your tent, you, like it, will be swept away, so as you cleave to something evil, as you take it into your tent, into your house, you join yourself with what God has ordained will be swept away.  It was Achan who violated this ban and took into his house some of the plunder, a Babylonian robe that looked so attractive to him, and a wedge of silver and some other things. He hid them in his tent, and he was swept away with those forbidden things. So also, during the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. When the time for judgment came away, God told the people, move away from their tents, don't touch any of their things. Now, that's a command I would obey. I'd be running from those tents. And imagine if you were Korah, Dathan and Abiram, seeing all the people physically moving away from you. Then suddenly the ground trembled and they were swallowed up. 

A separation between the righteous and the wicked. This principle is carried over into the new covenant as well. It's not just an old covenant principle, but it says in 2 Corinthian 6:17, the Apostle Paul was speaking to the Corinthian church which was surrounded by a pagan culture, a wicked and idolatrous and immoral culture in Corinth.  Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Therefore," he says, "Come out from them and be separate says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you."  So also in Revelation 18, speaking of the fall of the great city of Babylon, the symbol of a world system in rebellion against God with worldly  things, in Revelation 18:4, "Then I heard another voice from Heaven say, come out of her my people, so that you will not share in her sins. And so that you will not receive any of her plagues." If you are cleaving to that which God has rejected, then you also receive the same condemnation.  There's a clinging there, but God calls on his people to be separate. God's own nature calls for this. God is the one who is of holy eyes and cannot even look on evil. In 1 John 1:5, it says of Him, that “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” There's nothing evil inside God, and so if you want to be with God, you must be holy and pure and separate. This is the message that we've heard from the start. Also, God's electing, He's choosing in love. There's a picture of this separation in Deuteronomy 7:6, "You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the Earth to be his people, his treasured possession." This calls also for a separation. We are his chosen people, chosen out from the surrounding world.

In the end, God's love for us, his lavish love for us calls for this separation, doesn't it? Aren't you weary of evil? Aren't you tired of the temptations and the struggles? Aren't you yearning for the day when this separation will come and be perfected, and don't you yearn to see your own perfection, your own holiness when at last God's saving work in you has brought, is brought to completion, and you are perfect, holy and blameless in his sight? You yearn for this separation, you know why? Because evil has had its full history.  We've seen what it can do, we've been eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for centuries. We see what evil can do, we're worn out with it, and we want to be done with it. We want this separation. We want Him to do it, and the love of God mandates it. Matthew 13:41, "The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil."  Weeded out, a clean and a pure kingdom, not mixed anymore, but pure and holy, He will clean it out. In Revelation 21:4, ‘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 Behold, He’s making everything new.”

 God makes everything new by this separation that Jesus talks about in this parable. There is here in this text a grave warning that eternal torment awaits the wicked. Look again at verse 49 and 50. "This is how it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  This passage is not merely a promise, but it is also a grave warning to unbelievers. Not merely a promise, but also a warning. Jesus, our loving Savior, warned constantly about hell, did he not? He's not shying away from saying it. This passage is about hell, among other things. He's going to tell the truth. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:22, it says, "Anyone who says you fool is in danger of the fire of hell."   He said also in Matthew 5:29-30, "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away, it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." Jesus warned unbelieving Jews, "The subjects of the kingdom," he said, "Will be thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  In Matthew 8:12, "And then to unbelieving Capernaum, He said, "And you, Capernaum," Matthew 11:23. "Will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down into Hades. If the miracles that were performed in, you had been performed in Sodom they would have remained to this day. But I tell you, it'd be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you."   Jesus told the truth; he didn't candy coat it. There was a grave threat hanging over sinful human race, and it's for that reason that He came into the world. He said to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, "You snakes, you brood of vipers, how long will you escape being condemned to hell?"

The Reality of Hell

 This is a very direct, very personal grave warning concerning hell.  American evangelicals are squeamish about talking about hell. We don't like to talk about it. We want to rearrange the biblical language to make it a little bit easier to communicate about. We are doing no one any service by doing this. We're certainly stepping away from the example of our loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Campus Crusade for Christ people are always desiring to reach out with the Gospel, always desiring to bring people to faith in Christ. But their tracks say at the end, unbelievers will simply get what they've always wanted, eternal independence from God. If I'm an unbeliever, that sounds pretty good. “I’ve been living that my whole life and I get to do that forever. No more people, like you, kind of burdening my conscience with the sense of guilt. That sounds good, eternal independence from God. I get what I've always wanted, and those holy rollers they get, I guess, what they always wanted too... And everybody's happy.” That is not what this text is saying. Not at all. I remember a while ago, Mark Twain said he's aware of these prophecies and predictions about hell, but he just doesn't like Christians, so he says you need to go to Heaven for the climate, but to hell for the company. I thought about that and I said, “What kind of company will we have in hell if we're unbelievers?”  John Bunyan talked about the company that people who go to hell will have in hell. “You shall have none, but a company of damned souls with innumerable company of devils, to keep company with you while you are in this world. The very thought of the devil's appearing to you makes your flesh to tremble and your hair to stand up right on your head. Not only the supposition of the devils appearing, but the very real society of all the devils of hell will be with you, howling and roaring and screeching in such a hideous manner that you will be even at your wits end and ready to run stark raving mad again for anguish and torment, if after 10,000 years an end should come there would be comfort. But here is your misery here, you must be forever, and when you see what an innumerable company of howling devils you are amongst you shall think this again, this is my portion forever. And when you have been in hell so many thousand years as there are stars in the firmament or drops in the sea or sands on the seashore, yet you have to lie there still forever.”  Oh, this one word, forever, how it will torment your soul. I pray that Mark Twain repented before it was too late because this is more accurate concerning the company that unbelievers have to share in hell. 

The Silent Advance of the Day of Judgment

What lessons can we learn from this parable? Well, I have seven. We're going to look at seven lessons on the approaching Day of Judgment. The first is the silent progress, the silent gradual and imperceptible approach of the Day of Judgment. It's very much liked this dragnet that's just kind of moving silently through the water.  It's just moving through the water, the fish don't even notice it, except that occasionally they may brush up against it and they swim away. Skittish, it's an odd feeling. Makes them feel strange, and so they'll swim off, never noticing that their swimming area is getting every smaller ever smaller. Silently, imperceptibly, the Kingdom is advancing, the time is drawing near. They can't feel it, they don't know it's coming, but it is. And their swimming area, the volume of water that they have to swim in is ever more constricted until finally they are pulled up onto the shore. This is the silent imperceptible advance of the kingdom.  I saw an ad on television for the partnership for a drug-free America. It was talking about the effects of sniffing certain chemicals on the brain. It was a very clear, beautiful rectangular fish tank with goldfish in it. They're all swimming around, but somewhere the water's draining out, and it just... It keeps going lower and lower and the fish are running out of room. That's what happens to your brain starved as it is for oxygen and other things, it just dies. That is the picture I get of this dragnet. Just ever less room until it's done. But you don't feel it. There are unbelievers, around you all the time, but they don't realize how this net is drawing them in, and how suddenly, it will be finished for them.

The Measured Scope of Judgment Day

The second lesson is the measured scope of the net, the number of people and the amount of time, both of them measured. In verse 48 it says that when the net was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Each dragnet had its own capacity, its own size. At one-point Jesus, overwhelmed the capacity of Peter's net. You remember that the net was tearing because the catch was too much. This dragnet has a certain size to it, there's only so much that it can take. So also, the kingdom has been measured out. There's a certain scope of both time and of people. Do you know that if you're a believer in Christ, your days were numbered before even one of them came to be? Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be.” The same is true also for the unbelievers, for the sinners. Remember what God said to Abraham, concerning the Promised Land that he was walking on at that point. “It's not your time, yet Abraham it's not yours yet.” In Genesis 15:16, it says, “In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here to this promised land because the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” God also therefore has measured out the amount of time for the unbeliever, the amount of sin for them. When that measure is full, it's over. The Amorites weren't counting those days. They thought time would go on forever, but it didn't. This net has a certain scope, a certain scope of time, also a certain scope concerning people. Do you think that babies are born without God knowing it?  No, God knit you together in your mother's womb. Every child measured out. Does God not know how many people will be born in the history of the world? Of course he does, and it goes even further than that in Acts 17:26, “From one man, He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and he determined the time set for them, and the exact places where they should live.” God set up the geographical boundaries. The scope of the net has been measured. He knows what He's doing. He also set a time when it will end. In Acts 17:31 when Paul is preaching to the Athenians, he says that God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man that He has chosen. He's given proof of this to all men by raising Him up from the dead.  Jesus will sit on a judgment throne at the set and appointed time. This net has a certain scope to it, it's not infinite, it's not going to go on forever, there's a certain measured scope to it.

 The progress of the gospel is also measured out. This is great mystery, but so it is. In Romans 11:25, Paul dealing there with the Jews, concerning their hardening and so many of the Jews are rejecting the Gospel, so few are believing, says Israel has experienced a hardening in part and he says all will continue until the full number of Gentiles has come in.  There's a scope to the advance of the Gospel. He knows what He's doing. Everything is measured out. The kingdom advances, silently imperceptibly, but there's a measured scope. He knows what he's doing. 

The Inclusivity of Judgment Day

Thirdly, total inclusion, every single solitary human being will be drawn in by this net. Everyone. No one will be missing. Verse 47, “Once again the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish, and when it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore then they sat down.” They collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away. It says literally that all kinds of the fish, every single category or type of fish will be drawn up into this net. People from all walks of life, from every nation, culture and language, people from America, yes, but also from Rwanda, from Bulgaria, from China, from Argentina, will be drawn into this net. Aborigines from the Australian Outback, English royalty from the House of Windsor will be drawn up into this net. People whose mothers sang to them in the Navajo language, and those whose mothers sang to them in English will be drawn up into this net. People who have PhDs and Nobel prizes, and also those who couldn't finish high school will be drawn up into this net.   It's all inclusive. Nobody swims through. People whose faces have graced the covers of fashion magazines and those who are grossly disfigured and repulsive to look at. People who are buff and strong and in good health and those that are obese and out of shape will be drawn up into this net. Every single category of people, every single solitary person. John Piper says that hell will be a very diverse place. You know that's interesting.  We talk about diversity, saying that America is a diverse culture, and we like that.  We celebrate diversity, and our public schools are told to celebrate diversity. Well, hell will be a very diverse place.  Romans 2:9, put like this, “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first, and also the Greek.” God is no respecter of persons in salvation or damnation. The human race, and every ethnic group in it, are united in this great reality. We are all depraved and condemned, we're all lost in the woods together, we're all sinking on the same boat, we're all dying from the same disease. 

Angelic Action on Judgment Day

Fourthly, look at the angelic action. You see how the angels are involved in all this. Verse 49 says, “This is how it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous. And throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Once again, the angels are highlighted here as the gatherers and the separators, they're very active. This is actually repeated so often in the end time teachings of the Bible that it has to be, I think, a major theme of the end time teaching. The angels are involved, they're active, they gather, they separate, they bring some to heaven, they throw the others to hell. This is what the angels do.

A Simple Separation on Judgment Day

Fifth, we see a simple separation.  I talked about the diversity of Earth, the diversity of all of the fish caught up into this net, but there will be, for all of that diversity, only two categories on Judgment Day. There will be two and only be two categories. The wicked and the righteous, that's all. There are not three different containers. The fishermen are throwing the fish int two piles, the wicked and the righteous. Other places we call it believers and unbelievers, the weed and the tares, the sheep and the goats, the good fish and the bad fish. Two different categories. Can God really be that narrow-minded? That's not narrow-minded, that's His nature. You're either with Him or you're against Him, he's either for you or he's against you. That's the way it is, it's His nature. There will only be two categories, the wicked and the righteous. 

Now, let's not misunderstand those terms. Wicked and righteous could trick us into thinking it has something to do with our own good deeds. Maybe perhaps outweighing our bad or something like that, but the fact is, the Bible teaches very plainly that no one is naturally righteous.  Romans 3:10, says, “As it is written, there is no one righteous. No, not one.” If that is so, and there were going to be the two categories, the one would be overflowing and the other a null set except one person. Jesus Christ. He's the only one, and if He chose only to live as a display but not as an atoning sacrifice, that would be it. It would be Christ alone, righteous before the law of God, and no one else could stand. We are naturally wicked and naturally would have been gathered that way except for the blessed Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a free gift of righteousness, a free gift, accepted only by faith, a gift of righteousness that comes simply by looking at Jesus dead on the cross and say, "I deserve that he's dying in my place. I'm a sinner, but Jesus is my substitute. Oh, Jesus, be for me, righteousness. Be for me, that asbestos robe that's going to get me through the fires of Judgment Day. Be, for me, my savior be righteousness for me, Jesus, that is the gift of righteousness.” Romans 3 in Verse 22, it says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” God presented Jesus as an atoning sacrifice through faith in his blood, a gift of righteousness through the blood of Jesus Christ. That's one way to understand the righteous. Another is a lifestyle of righteousness that flows out of being a Christian. In other words, once you are saved, once you are justified, you begin to live differently, don't you? You begin to love what's right and hate what's evil. You begin to put sin to death in your life, and by the power of the Spirit you grow in righteousness, every day more and more like Jesus, yearning for Him. So, we can speak of a set of people called the righteous in this world, righteous in position as God sees them, righteous practically in everyday life, not perfectly, so because it says in Galatians 5:5,  "By faith, we eagerly await through the spirit the righteousness for which we hope so we're waiting for a perfect righteousness.” We are growing in a practical righteousness. These are the righteous, and everyone else are the wicked. Even if they've done good deeds, even if they think they're good people, if they have not received the free gift of righteousness through faith in Christ, they are wicked in God's sight.

The Eternal Torment of Hell

And that brings us to the next lesson, the sixth lesson the eternal nature of the torment of hell. This is how it will be at the end of the age [v 49-50]. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell is a place of constant torment. Weeping and gnashing of teeth I believe implies both psychological torment and physical torment. Psychological, because I think you have a memory of your life and how you wasted opportunities. How perhaps you heard the gospel and yet were too hard-hearted to repent and believe, and there will be an agony of regret at what you did. You'll remember what you did but it won't do you any good. It won't be redemptive remembering. It will be agonizing remembering, a weeping therefore but also a gnashing of teeth, because there's an actual physical torment. There will be levels of suffering for Matthew 11:22 says, “I tell you; it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” There will be different levels of suffering; the lighter and revelation you had in life, and yet did not repent, the worse it will go for you on Judgment Day.

 That's how it goes... And now I come to a controversial issue, and that is the eternal nature of this torment; that hell is not temporary, it is eternal. In Matthew 25 in speaking of the sheep and the goats, Jesus says, to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The same word is used to describe for the sheep "Come you who are blessed by my Father, into the eternal life, the eternal Kingdom prepared for you by my father.” That's the same word. There's a parallelism here, so if the fire of hell is not eternal, neither is the life in heaven eternal. That they are eternal is even clearer in Revelation 14:11, “and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever there is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for any who receives the mark of his name.” No rest day or night; it goes on forever and ever. Clark Pinnock, back in 1990 when people still thought of him as an Evangelical wrote this: “It just does not make any sense to say that a God of love will torture people forever for sin's done in the context of a finite life. It's time for evangelicals to come out and say that the biblical and morally appropriate doctrine of hell is annihilation, not everlasting torment.” Poof, you're gone. That's it. Annihilation. Not eternal suffering, just gone, burned up in the flame. Even John Stott, a faithful teacher in other areas, gets sucked into this error, and says that it will be emotional torment. I find the concept of eternal conscious torment intolerable, and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain.  Annihilation, it that what Scripture says? Is that what Jesus came to warn us about?  Is that why he died on the cross, that we would not be annihilated? John Piper puts it this way, “There are no more fearful words in the universe than the words, “God is against you.” If infinitely powerful wrath is against us, annihilation would be a sweet gift of grace, which is why those who try to persuade us that annihilation is what judgement means. Annihilation under the wrath of God is not judgment, it is deliverance and relief [Revelation 6], “They call on the mountains and the hills to fall on them and crush them so that they don't have to face the wrath of the Lamb.”  No, there is no annihilation of any human being. We live forever with God either for us or against us. All who are in Christ may say, with almost unspeakable joy, “God is for us. Who cares who's against us?” If you are a believer looking into the doctrine of hell gives you an incredible joy in your salvation.  Piper, says. “Imagine God meeting Adolf Hitler on judgment day and saying for all of your crimes for all of your willfulness, your rejection of me, your hatred of my people, for all of the slaughter and murder I condemn you, to be instantly annihilated.” It's not biblical, and it's not what's happening, it's not what's going to come.

The Blessedness of Heaven

Point 7, heaven is a place of eternal blessedness. Free forever from all evil, free forever from all temptation, free forever from the devils of hell and all wicked people who don't love Jesus. Free forever from all of that temptation, free from your own residual sin nature, free, free, free from sin and evil forever. Now that's eternal blessedness. If I could have just two hours of your time, and if God wills and permitted for me to take you on those two trips, you would come to faith in Christ, today, but he will not permit it, because He wants you to hear the Word and believe it and that's all the word needs to be enough for you. 

Application

 First of all, know the overwhelming urgency of repentance and faith, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, eternally perish, but have eternal life. That's why God sent His Son. The offer is open and free for any of you to hear the words I'm speaking. Through faith in Christ alone, be counted as righteous in God's sight. But if you choose not to, you will not be able to say on judgment day, I never knew that this is what was facing me. Yes, you do, because on August 3rd, 2003, God ordained that you sit here and listen to me and you know the truth.  You will not be able to say on that day, no one ever told me... No one ever told me. Urgency. Please don't walk out of here without repenting and trusting in Christ. To all of you believers, do you see the urgency of preaching this message to a lost world, the urgency of continuing to send mission teams to East Asia and other places, the places that have never heard the name of Christ. Do you see the urgency that you have this week to warn your neighbors and co-workers and friends and family members who aren't in Christ, that they should flee the wrath to come? Do you see the urgency? And do you see the celebration that you should have every day that God has rescued you from the wrath to come? “Thank you, Jesus, for saving me from this. Thank you that you drank this on the cross for me.” Hell is not a myth, it's not a joke, it's not a punch line. It's not a joke, it's an eternal reality. Do you see the need also to redeem the time? Time is moving on. Our salvation is nearer now that when I began this sermon. Do you realize that?

 Time is ticking, it's ticking, it's ticking, it's ticking for you. Redeem the time, make the most of it, because God is ordained in time that you will be saved or not. It’s time that does that, and therefore, it says, “In the time of my favor, I heard you, and the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. If today you hear His voice, don't harden your heart, come to faith in Christ.

Other Sermons in This Series

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