Thirty Minutes in Hell
Dr. Jim Denison
I love church bulletin bloopers. Here are some recent additions to the file: “The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on Water. The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus”; “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands;” “Barbara remains in the hospital and is having trouble sleeping—she requests tapes of Pastor Joe’s sermons;” and, “The Rector will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing Break Forth into Joy.” But to get back at them, “Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones; “and, “At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be What is Hell? Come early and listen to our choir practice.”
This fall we’re seeking to know that we know him. Now we close our series by asking what happens to those who do not know him, and those who do. This week we get the bad news. Then next week, on Thanksgiving weekend, we get the good news. For today, let’s talk about the eternal destiny of those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord—and why the issue matters to every one of us, whether we know him or not.
Avoid the “lake of fire”
John sees a “great white throne and him who was seated on it” (v. 11). “Great” (mega in the Greek) shows his power—the higher the throne, the greater the one who sat on it.
“White” points to his purity and holiness, his right to be judge. He is so holy that “earth and sky fled from his presence.” He is the Holy One of the universe.
One day, we will all stand before him: “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne” (v. 12a). One day we will all stand before God like this: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
What happens here? “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” (vs. 12-13). First, God will open the book of works, recording all we have done and every sin we’ve not confessed to God.
Nothing escapes his notice: “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes” (Jeremiah 16:17); “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14; cf. Luke 12:2-3; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
“You, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to his conduct, according to what his deeds have done” (Psalm 62:12).
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10).
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory, withy his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27).
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
“No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Upon this basis none of us can be admitted to God’s perfect paradise, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Then God opens the “Lamb’s book of life.”
Jesus told his disciples, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Paul wrote, “Help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3).
The book of Hebrews describes “the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).
God promises, “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
This is the only way to get into heaven: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
How can we be sure our names will be in this book? “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6). The Bible is clear: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
What happens if our name is not found in this book of life? We will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
“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 sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).