Series: What We Believe: The Doctrines Of the Church
Now I do not know whether we have our little white book on the Articles of Faith or not. Next Wednesday night, we cannot read it because it will be too many of them. But tonight if you have and can share the little white book, if there is enough of us here with it, why, let us read it out loud together, then we shall begin our lecture. “Last Things,” now together:
According to His promise Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. After the judgments of God upon this sinful world in the Great Tribulation, Jesus our Lord will come with His saints to establish His millennial kingdom. Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The redeemed of Christ in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their rewards and will dwell in heaven forever with their Savior. The unsaved will be separated from the kingdom of God and will be consigned forever to a place of everlasting perdition.
In the lecture, you are going to see the pastor approach it from quite an altogether different way than you might think. But we are going to start and build it up, and all of it will be toward The Consummation of the Age. We use the word eschatology. There is a Greek word, eschatos, eschatos, which means farthest, furthest, last. The Greek word for last is eschatos. So eschatology is a study of the things at the consummation of the age, the things at the end of the world, the last things, and that is our subject tonight.
We’re going to start off with two, two, and two, and two, and two, and follow it all the way through. There are two kingdoms in this world. There is a kingdom of light and of glory and of salvation; it is presided over by our Lord and King Christ Jesus. That was the lecture last Wednesday night, that Jesus is a king, and He has a kingdom. He was born a king. When the wise men came to Jerusalem they asked, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” [Matthew 2:2]. He was crucified a king: Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, wrote and nailed to the cross the accusation of why He was being crucified and the accusation was, “This is Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” [Matthew 27:37]. He was crucified a king, and He is a coming king. In Revelation 19:11-16, we have the glorious portrayal of our Lord, “His eyes are as a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns… He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.” So there is a kingdom in this world presided over by the King and Lord Christ Jesus.
But there is also another kingdom in this world. There is a kingdom of darkness and despair and damnation. It is presided over by Satan who is called Lucifer, who is called the Devil, who is called the serpent, who is called the dragon. All of those words are used in Revelation 12:3,9. All of those are descriptions of Satan. There is a kingdom of darkness presided over by Satan [Ephesians 6:12]. In the Bible he is called the king of this world. In Matthew 4:8-9, he showed the Lord Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said to the Lord, “This will I give You if You will bow down and worship me.” Now the Lord never denied that Satan was a king, and He never denied that he had a kingdom. The Lord took it for granted that what Satan said was so, and it was certainly no temptation to the Lord if it is not so. There is a king over this world of darkness, and his name is Satan. He is called the prince of this world in John 12:31, in John 14:30, and in John 16:11. Three different times in that discourse, after and in the upper room, the Lord calls Satan the prince of this world. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul calls Satan the god of this world. And in Revelation 9:11, he is given another name, Apollyon, the king and lord of destruction. And he is a king over the world of demons.
So there are two kingdoms in this world presided over by two kings. Now these two represent two wills in the world. There is the will of God, but there is also the will of Satan. And at the very heart of this universe there is a confrontation between those two wills. I am asked almost everyday, “Why?” and the answer lies, there is another will in this world beside the will of God.
God is sovereign and we are moving toward the great consummation of the age, this lecture tonight on last things, when there will be no will in this universe but God’s will. That, however, is not true now. There is another will contrary to the will of God in this universe. I want you to look, for example, how Satan is described in the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah. And you look at these, “I wills,” as I read them; Isaiah chapter 14 beginning at verse 12:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit upon the mount of the congregation,
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High – I will be God
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell.
There is some other will in this world beside the will of God. And you will meet it in your life, and in your heart, and in every thing that you do. There is conflict and confrontation at the very heart of heaven. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels” [Revelation 12:7], and that conflict you’ll find in your heart. You’ll find it in you. You’re not going to escape the war of the whole universe. It’s in you as much as it’s in out there, as much as it is in up there in heaven.
Now there are two responses to these two kingdoms. The kingdom of heaven was announced by John the Baptist [Matthew 3:1-2] and by Jesus our Lord [Matthew 4:17], and people were invited to become citizens of the kingdom of heaven. But always there is found wherever that invitation is presented, there is founded, there is always found a twofold response. There was a twofold response to John the Baptist when he announced the kingdom of heaven. For example, in Matthew 21, the Lord says, beginning at verse 31:
Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
When John the Baptist came to announce the coming of the Lord and the coming of the kingdom, there were people who heard the announcement with gladness and rejoicing, and they were the worst kinds of folks. They turned, and they repented, and they accepted the wonderful announcement. And they were baptized in preparation for the coming of the messianic kingdom. But at the same time, there were others who rejected for themselves the invitation [Matthew 3:5-7] and spurned the appeal of the Baptist and his baptism, getting ready for the great coming of the great King.
Now, you find that twofold response to the announcement of the Lord Jesus when He said the kingdom of heaven is at hand [Matthew 4:17]. He met opposition; there were some who believed, and there were some who violently, disdainfully scorned the appeal. So the Lord began to talk to the people in parables.
And the disciples said, Why do You speak in parables?
And He answered and said, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted…
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
[Matthew 13:10-11, 15-16]
When the announcement was made by the Lord Jesus there was twofold response: there were some who gladly accepted and there were others who scornfully disdained and rejected. You have a poignant illustration of that in the story of the rich young ruler in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, a noble young fellow bowing down before the Lord Jesus. But when the Lord invited him to take up his cross and follow Him, the rich young ruler with sorrow, turned away[Matthew 19:16-22]. That twofold response to the announcement of the grace of God and the invitation to come in the fold of the Lord is found in the Bible, in the response to the apostles. For example, Paul will write in the second chapter of 2 Corinthians:
For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life
[2 Corinthians 2:15, 16]
That twofold response is seen everywhere; there will be those who listen to it and find in it life; there will be those who listen to it and find in it judgment and death.
You will see that poignantly illustrated in the fourth chapter of Acts, where so many did not believe but so many did believe [Acts 4:1-4]. You’ll find it illustrated in the seventeenth chapter of Acts when Paul preached on Mars’ Hill. There were some who scoffed and there were some who smiled. Most of them left, but there were some who clung to the apostle Paul and received his message [Acts 17:22-34].
Now to my great amazement, that twofold response is also found in the judgments of the terrible tribulation. In the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation, you will find an outline, a portrayal of the greatest revival in the history of mankind. So great is the multitude who are being saved that they are beyond number[Revelation 7:9]. Now in that day of the terrible judgments of the tribulation, you look at the response as we read it here in chapter 9, verses 20 and 21:
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands.
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Now you look again in the Apocalypse in chapter 16:9-11:
And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory.
And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues with pain,
And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Now I want to comment on that for just a moment. We’re talking about the two responses to these two kingdoms, and here, the response to the kingdom of God. Wouldn’t you think that men who, because of the rejection of God, gnawed their tongues with pain, that they were scorched with heat that burned, that they were tormented and many of them slain, wouldn’t you think that they would repent, and turn, and believe? Pain and suffering never converted anybody. That’s a strange thing of human nature.
I want to ask some of you who are of my generation. Do you remember the name of John Dillinger? Does that mean anything to you, John Dillinger? I mention John Dillinger because he was longer at what he did and apparently more astute than some of the others. All of us here in Dallas know about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and Raymond Hamilton; they grew up here in Dallas, they were the fruit of West Dallas. And the sufferings that they went through, and finally were killed in an ambush; and Raymond Hamilton, of course, was electrocuted in Huntsville. But that man John Dillinger, John Dillinger continued at it for a long, long time. And the suffering that that man went through, as I would read about it from day to day – you know, in magazine articles – he had all of his fingers, all the skin here on the fingers cut off in order that he might not be fingerprinted. They could not identify him by fingerprints. He had his face worked on, went through surgery. Time and again he’d fall into gun battles, and be wounded, and try to recover from those wounds. He was the most hounded and hunted of all the men of whom I have ever heard in our modern times, in our generation.
Well, wouldn’t you think that a man who suffered like that, bled like that, went through torture like that, hunted like a dog and when finally he was betrayed by a woman – a moll, a mistress – and they staked him out in a theater and as he came out, they shot him down in the same way that you would kill a dog. Wouldn’t you think that a man who had gone through the horrors of that and the terrors of that would say, “I’ve had enough. I can’t suffer anymore. I repent. I’m going to get right. I’m going to trust in God. I’m going to get right with God. I’m just going to be a new man.” Wouldn’t you think that? It’s just the opposite. My impression of people who live in the underworld is that as they continue living in it, they become more refined in their sin and more desperate in their attempt to escape.
Well, that is what you find here in the days of the terrible tribulation.
The men were scorched with great heat, and yet they blasphemed the name of God.
The fifth angel poured out upon them the vial of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues with pain.
But they cursed God because of their pains, their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
That’s one of the most amazing things in human nature. And that’s why it is that if you were to bring a man into heaven unconverted, unwashed, unsanctified, it wouldn’t be long until he would convert heaven into hell. He’d have horse racing up there. He’d have crap games up there. He’d have bootlegging up there. He’d have a bawdy house up there. I don’t know what all he’d have up there in heaven, but it wouldn’t be long until it wouldn’t be heaven anymore.
Heaven would only be heaven because it is a congregation; a convocation of changed men. That would make heaven; you would have a little heaven down here if you can get people converted, get them right. You’ve got it right here in this church. The more Christlike we are, the more of heaven we are.
Now you heard tonight they’re having a special prayer for one of our chapels. Why are they having special prayer tonight for one of our chapels? Because the devil has got in it, and apparently they’re going to tear it wide apart, just plow it under. Isn’t that tragic? So we’ve got a beautiful chapel, and Satan is getting in it; people are getting in it who don’t have the Spirit of Christ, and they’re going to turn it into a hell. And there’s a good possibility that right now, they’re having hellfire and damnation in one of God’s colonies. You just don’t change people by pain and all the things that go with the horrors of the damned. You change people by getting them converted, loving God.
Now there are not only two kingdoms and not only two responses to the invitation to become a part of the kingdom of Christ, but there are two comings. There is a coming of Christ for His people. You call that the rapture, so beautifully delineated in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and by type in Revelation 4:1 when John saw a door opened in heaven, and he was raptured up into glory. He is coming as a thief to steal away His pearl of price, and we discussed that last Wednesday night when the Lord comes as a thief to take away His jewels.
The second coming is with His people. He is coming in glory and in great power with His saints. He is coming, as Matthew 24:27 describes, as the lightning cleaves the bosom of the sky, openly and visibly, and that coming is in Revelation 19:11.
Now these two comings are separated by the tribulation. In Revelation 4, you have the rapture typified by John raptured up into heaven, and the church disappears. You don’t find any reference to the church beginning in chapter 4 until the Lord comes with His bride in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation[Revelation 19:11-16]. So there are two comings, for His people which is secret, clandestine, furtive, unannounced; He just comes and takes us to Himself suddenly, without publication [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. Then at the end of the tribulation, He is coming openly and visibly with His people [Revelation 19:11-16].
Now there are two resurrections. As you can see, we’re moving along toward the consummation of the age, and always a duality, all the way through it. There are two resurrections. There is a resurrection of the saints; that’s when God, when Christ comes and raptures us away. In 1 Thessalonians 4:, “And the dead in Christ shall rise first.” And then that first resurrection is spoken of in Revelation 20:6. There is also a resurrection of the lost in Revelation 20:5,11-15.
Now these two resurrections are separated by a thousand years. The apostle will write in the twentieth chapter:
Blessed, blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection:
upon them the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ,
and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Then at the end of the thousand years, the great white throne judgment is set up, and the dead who are lost are brought before the great white throne judgment, and they are judged according to the deeds of the flesh [Revelation 20:11-12].
So the two resurrections are separated by a thousand years. At the rapture, the Lord raises the beloved in Christ, and all of us who are alive and remain through that moment are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye [1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. That is the great assembly of God’s redeemed in heaven. Then at the end of the millennium, the lost are resurrected, and they are judged and sent away into their ultimate and final home [Revelation 20:14-15].
So, we come now to two destinies: there are two destinies. There is a destiny of the saved, and there is a destiny of the lost. Could I read here the destiny of the saved? In Revelation 19, beginning at verse 6, here is our destiny, “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, saying, Alleluia.”
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, isn’t that a beautiful thing? Alleluia?
saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife, His bride, His church, hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
You have another good illustration of that in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” [Matthew 25:34]. That is our destiny.
Now there is a destiny of the lost and this is delineated in Revelation 20:11-15, the great white throne judgment. And these are sent away, as Matthew 25:41 and 46shall say:
Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand,
Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.
So there are two destinies, one for the saved and one for the lost.
Now, there are two beasts in the end time: there is the Antichrist, the political leader of the world, and he is described in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, verses 1 through 10. He is the beast that rises out of the sea, out of the nations and peoples of the earth; the Antichrist.
Now I have a little comment here to make: in the sixth chapter of the Revelation, you have the opening of the seals. And in the first seal that is opened in chapter 6, you have a rider and he is on a white horse, “He has a bow; and a crown is given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” [Revelation 6:1-2]. And that will deceive many people who look at that casually, summarily. That is not Christ, could not be Christ, because Christ does not come until the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-16], and this is in the sixth chapter, verse 2. What you have here in the sixth chapter of the Revelation, verse 2, you have the Antichrist promising peace and prosperity to the whole world.
Did you read the editorial in the Dallas Morning News this morning, the lead editorial? That’s one of the most discerning, and one of the most reflective and reflecting of all the editorials I’ve ever read. What he’s pointing out is this, that it is not just the United States that is having trouble governmentally, but that practically all the nations of the earth are falling into that same trouble. You have it in Chile, you have it in Portugal, you have it in England, you have it in France. You have it in Italy, you have it in West Germany. Who would ever in this earth ever dream that Willie Brandt would have been falling from his place of premiership on account of scandal in his government? And the editorial is pointing out to us that the entire earth is losing confidence in government. They’re losing confidence in their leaders, and they’re like lost sheep. Now the Scriptures say that that kind of a pattern will increase in the earth; the world is going to be plunged into endless, abysmal frustration and despair. And when that comes to pass, there is seemingly no way out.
Why, it will surprise you how people will turn to anyone who has a promise of peace, and prosperity, and victory, and triumph. “You follow me and everything that you want, I’ll bring into your hands, and into your home, and into your house.” That is exactly what happened in Germany under the days of the Nazis with Adolph Hitler. They were so frustrated and defeated that when he came with a program of a place in the sun, the whole nation listened and followed.
That is exactly what Antichrist does. He comes here in the sixth chapter riding a white horse, but it isn’t long until he is followed by a red horse of war. And it isn’t long until that one is followed by the black horse of despair and famine. And isn’t long until that one is followed by the pale horse of death [Revelation 6:2-8].
So there are two beasts: there is one that arises out of the sea; that is the Antichrist [Revelation 13:1-10]. And the other in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation, the other beast arises out of the earth. In the eleventh verse; “I beheld another beast coming out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, but he spake as a dragon.” And then you have the description of the second beast which is the false prophet [Revelation 13:11-18].
I want to say a word here about reading the Revelation. The Revelation is divided into two equal parts. Chapters 1 through 11 is one part, and chapters 12 through 22 is the other part; eleven chapters in one, eleven chapters in the other.
Now in the first part of the Apocalypse, chapters 1 through 11, you have the thing discussed right on up to the end, right on up to the end. And the end comes in chapter 10, verses 6 and 7, when the angel lifts his hand to heaven and swears that there’ll be delay no more longer. And it is described in chapter 11, verse 15, when the kingdom of this world is become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He reigns forever and ever [Revelation 11:15]. Now this is the end.
But when you start with chapter 12 and go to the end, you begin discussing the characters in the denouement, in the end time, the consummation. And that’s what you have here in chapter 13. You’re being introduced to the characters in the Revelation, in the end time. In chapter 12, you have here the dragon, Satan, and the conflict there [Revelation 12:7-9]. Then in chapter 13 you have the first beast, the Antichrist, the political leader [Revelation 13:1-10]. And we’ve already met the dragon back here, we’ve already met the Antichrist back here in chapter 6 [Revelation 6:2]. But we’re looking at the characters now beginning at chapter 12, and they’re being discussed here in the Bible.
So in the thirteenth chapter you have the Antichrist that appeared back there in chapter 6. Now you’ve got another one here, you’ve got the false prophet ,and you’ll find him discussed, introduced here beginning in chapter 13 verse 11 and discussed in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, where there he’s called the scarlet whore [Revelation 17:1,15,16]. So you’ve got these two great characters at the end time: you have the political leader of the world – the Antichrist, the beast [Revelation 13:1] – and you have the religious leader of the world, the false prophet [Revelation 13:11]. Many times we think and are asked and see discussed, “What do you think about that religious leader at the end time?” Well, I think the seat of it will be in Rome. I think it’ll have all of the accouterments of Roman religion, but I think it includes all of apostate religions, not just that.
I think at the end time, as you move toward a great political leader for the whole world, who could promise to bring us out of our troubles and into the promised land and inherit all the things that mind could imagine and human endeavor could achieve, when you have a man like that, you’re also going to have at the same time, a great religious leader who will be right along with the political leader. Then as you find discussed – we haven’t time to mention these things – you will find that it is the political leader that destroys the beast, the false prophet. The political leader destroys the false prophet; God will destroy the political leader[Revelation 17:11]. But it is the political government that destroys the religious leader; they get tired of him, they get sick of him and destroy him.
Now there are two eternal abodes. We’re following in pairs all the way through. There are two eternal abodes. There is heaven which is described in Revelation 21-22. Last Wednesday night, when I got through discussing the King and the Kingdom, one of our dear people came up to me and said, “What is the difference between the millennium and the eternal kingdom, the eternal and fixed states of heaven? What is the difference?”
Well, this is what I think: I don’t think there is any difference except for the episode of the rebellion of Satan, who is loosed out of his pit – and the deception that he has, that he’s able to achieve in the earth [Revelation 20:7-10]. I think when we get to the millennium, we’re just going right straight on through into the eternal kingdom [Revelation 20:1 – 22:21]. And I think that episode in there of the rebellion and the final judgment of the lost [revelation 20:7-15]; I think that’s just an incident in our life when we start in the millennium and just going right on through. Now this is just one of my persuasions, but when we get to the millennium, I think we’re there. And I think we’re going to just continue on, all of us who are in that millennium, who are raised from the dead, and who are raptured [1 Thessalonians 4:14-18]. I think all of us are just going to continue on, and it’ll be a part of our eternal state.
Now the two eternal abodes, there is heaven and then there is hell. Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels. That is plainly said in Matthew 25:41. It is not prepared for us. It is prepared for the devil and his angels, and there is no one in hell yet, not one. The first to go is the beast, the Antichrist: you’ll find that in Revelation 19:20. In Revelation 19:20, “And the beast was taken, and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” The first to go is the Antichrist, the beast.
The second to go is the false prophet: “And the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived the people; he was cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” [Revelation 19:20]. The first one is the beast; the second one is the false prophet, and they’re cast into hell together, one and two, first and second.
Now the third to be cast into hell is Satan. You find that in Revelation 20:10, “And the devil that deceived them was,” this is at the end of the millennium, after the beast and the false prophet have been in hell for a thousand years, at the end of the thousand years is this rebellion when Satan is loosed out of his abyss[Revelation 20:7]. “And the devil that deceived, that was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” [Revelation 20:10].
Now the fourth to go are the unsaved. In Revelation 20:15, this concludes the white throne judgment. “And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” So, who is in hell? No one yet. The first to go will be the beast, the Antichrist, the second to go will be the false prophet, the third to go will be Satan, and the fourth to go will be those who have chosen to cast their lot with Satan.
Isn’t that a tragic thing, that people would choose death rather than life? “I’d rather be damned than saved. I’d rather fall. I’d rather follow Satan than to follow Christ. I’d rather be lost than to be saved.” God gives us that opportunity. But isn’t it a tragedy and a pity, that a man would choose to link his life and to link his soul with Satan rather than to choose the Lord and be saved?
Now, I have two or three notes here and our time is gone. The story of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, we ought to understand what these things mean. This is the story of the rich man who lifted up his eyes and was in torment, and the story of Lazarus who was taken to Abraham’s bosom. This is the sixteenth chapter of Luke. Now, we’re going to look at that a minute in view of hell:
There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, laid at his gate, full of sores,
Desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: and the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
now here is our problem:
And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Now this is a very simple thing if we will just keep the words correct, that’s all. There is nothing hard, abstruse, difficult about it at all. What we have is in the Scriptures, as in the thought of those ancient Greek people and as you’d find in the thought of the Hebrews, you have a world out there of death. The Greek could look at it, and he couldn’t see but just shadowy figures beyond the dark swollen River Styx. And the Hebrew looked at it and he saw sheol – which is the grave, which is the land of death and that’s all sheol means. And he saw in it those that were gathered to their fathers, God’s people, and those that he could not quite discern, he could not quite understand. Now the word sheol in Hebrew, is nothing but a word for the place of the departed dead. The exact word in [Greek]meaning the exact thing, is Hades. So here in the sixteenth chapter of Luke, verse 23, “And in Hades, in the world of the departed, he lifted up his eyes.”
Now in that world of Hades there were two divisions; one is called Abraham’s bosom in 16:22. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” Now Abraham’s bosom is called “Paradise” in Luke 23:43. “Today,” He said to that dying thief, “today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” And when you die, if you die before Jesus comes, you go to Hades, and you go to a compartment of Hades called Abraham’s bosom, or Paradise; that’s where you go now. The reason you go there now is that you are a disembodied spirit when you die.
In the sixth chapter of the Revelation, of the Apocalypse, in the opening of the fifth seal, John saw the souls, the spirits of those who had been saved trusting Jesus[Revelation 6:9]. What does a soul look like? I don’t know and John doesn’t say; he just saw them. Now that’s where we go when we die; we go to Abraham’s bosom. We go to paradise. We go as disembodied spirits; we go as souls, our bodies are here turning to dust in the ground. But there is more to it, and we will come to that in a moment.
There is another compartment in Hades, and that is torment, “This man in Hades lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” [Luke 16:23]. Basanos, “torment,” in 2 Peter 2:4 it is called tartaros. Now that is a Greek word, tartaros. Do you remember tartaros, who – tantalize comes from it, tartaros, tantalize – he was hungry and there were grapes, and he just couldn’t reach them and on and on. Now that is where the lost go when they die now. They go to tartaros; they go to torment in Hades.
Why is it then that the final fixation of our eternal abode awaits the end time? There are two reasons. Reason number one: God’s not done with us until our bodies are resurrected. That’s the first reason. When you die and go to into Hades, into sheol – the righteous, those that are saved into Paradise, into Abraham’s bosom; the unrighteous, those that are not saved, into torment, into tartaros – when you go into Hades when you die, you are not yet done with by the Lord. You have a body that is molding in the clay that is turning back to dust, and it is the purpose of God that the entire purchased possession be redeemed, my spirit as well as my body. My spirit is redeemed when I am saved, converted [Romans 8:16]. My body is redeemed when I am raised from the dead [Romans 8:23].
I do not have a redeemed body; I have a dying body, I have an aging body, I have a decaying body. Look at these glasses I wear; who would ever have thought when I was a young fellow? I was talking to somebody this afternoon about my eyes. When I was a young fellow – about like Jimmy Draper, not dry behind the ears yet – when I was a young fellow like Jimmy Draper, I remember being in a home and the man was remarking upon my eyes. At that time, I always carried with me my little Greek New Testament. I read out of it everyday; I had my devotions everyday in that Greek New Testament. And I said to him, “Why, I can read that Greek New Testament,” and it was very small, the print was very small, I said, “I can read that in the dark.” He said, “What?”
“Well,” I said, “you come outside with me.” And there wasn’t a full moon, but there was some of the moon shining, and I read my Greek New Testament out there in half the moonlight. Now I had eyes like that. What kind of eyes do I have now at the age of five and sixty years? Well, here I am using them more and more and more. Why am I using them more and more and more? Because my eyesight is beginning to fade! That is the kind of a body that I live in. I live in an unredeemed body.
Now one of these days, if the Lord delays His coming, my body will decay; it will go back to dust. Is that God’s purpose for my body? No, sir. No, sir! It is the purpose of God that I have a redeemed body to match my redeemed soul.
Now that’s why, when I die, I do not go to my final fixed abode. I go to an intermediate state. I go to paradise. I go to Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22], awaiting the great resurrection day when I shall be brought out of the dust of the ground, the heart of the earth, the mouth of the fish, the depths of the sea, whatever may happen to this body. God’s going to redeem it, the whole purchased possession.
All right, the second reason why; this great judgment at our final abode is at the end time. It is because I don’t die when I die [John 11:25-26]. I don’t stop living when I cease breathing, but my works go on and on and on, and God can’t give me my reward when I die. I don’t get that until the day of the end. Then it’s all written in the book; then I shall receive the reward of the deeds that I have done.
For example, just think of the wonderful reward we’re going to have, when some of these young fellows, like that boy who stood up here to make that appeal for the film to which we were invited to take our lost, think of the reward some of us are going to have after we’re in heaven, and that young fellow is still down here preaching the gospel because we’ve already licensed him to be a preacher of the gospel. And after I’m in paradise, he’ll be down here somewhere just preaching the gospel with all of his heart. Well, I shall have had a little part in that boy’s life. He grew up here under my ministry. He never had any pastor but I. And what that boy does, I have a little part in it, and God is able to take the scheme and to unravel it through all of the vicissitudes and turns of life, and it’ll become our reward at the end time.
Think of all that you’ve done, the people you’ve taught, the words of invitation that you’ve extended, every thing that you’ve done. God’s written it in His book. And you can’t get the reward until the end of the age because it’s still going on.
You remember that beautiful verse in Hebrews 11:4, “God testifying of his gifts,” talking about Abel, and in his blood, “and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” How long had Abel been dead when that book was written? I have no idea, thousands of years, and yet Abel’s blood is still speaking, witnessing, testifying after he had been dead for those thousands of years. And when you think of the reward that’ll be given to the Apostle Paul and to the sainted John, ah! and that’s why it has to be at the end time that God gives us our rewards.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com