by Keith Sharp
September 11, 2001, the world watched in horror as terrorists took the lives of almost 3000 people. Thousands of people like us, who hours earlier were beginning a normal work day with no hint of significant danger, were suddenly face to face with their eternal destinies. For many souls who moments earlier were absorbed with job, family, and pleasure, now only one thing mattered - were they right with God? Surely this should cause us to think. Our lives too, in any of a thousand different ways, could be instantly snuffed out. Each of us must face the destiny of his soul. In comparison to this, all other concerns shrink to utter insignificance. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works (Matthew 16:26-27). What is your destiny?
To the young, life seems endless; but both the inspired Word of God and the experience of the aged confirm that our time here is but a fleeting moment. "As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more" (Psalm 103:15-16).
Furthermore, human life is so terribly uncertain. While you anticipate many years of work and pleasure, your life could be ended in an instant, as quickly and unpredictably as the vanishing of the morning fog. Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that" (James 4:13-15).
We must also realize there will be no second chance after death to make corrections for a misspent life. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
As you consider your life, be realistic. Death is certain. "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
The only alternative is the possibility the Lord may return while we are still alive. "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Spend your small amount of time here preparing for destiny.
After death, what then? The spirits of all the dead enter a realm known in the Hebrew tongue as "Sheol" and in the Greek as "Hades." David prophesied the resurrection of Christ thus: "For you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will you allow your holy one to see corruption" (cf. Acts 2:27). Thus, the apostle Peter explained, "He, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31). This realm is variously defined as "the common receptacle of disembodied spirits," "the unseen world," or simply "the abode of the dead."
There are two places within this realm. One is "Paradise," where the blessed dead are comforted. As the Lord promised the thief, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). The other realm is "Torments" where the lost departed spirits suffer. The Master said the rich man was "in Torments in Hades" (Luke 16:23). These places are separated by a "great gulf" over which none can cross. When the rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to comfort him, Abraham reminded him, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us" (Luke 16:26).
Then follows our unbreakable appointment with the Day of days. There have been many great days in human history. Americans remember Independence Day, July 4, 1776. Now September 11, 2001 has exceeded December 7,1941, Pearl Harbor Day, as "a day that will live in infamy." But there is coming a day, "the judgment of the great day," (Jude verse 6) which shall completely exceed all other days of all time.
On that monumental day, all the people, both good and bad, of all ages shall come forth from the grave. Christ warned: Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29)!
Abraham and Sarah shall arise from Machpelah. Moses shall come forth from the unknown wilderness grave across from Beth Peor. The oceans shall deliver up the countless millions buried within. The righteous dead shall burst forth from the grave with the shout of victory. All, all from Adam down, shall be raised! All the peoples of all the nations of the earth, including you, my friend, will stand before the Lord to be judged.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:31-33).
Christ will be the Judge. "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22).
His Word will be the standard of judgment. "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Reject His tender plea now if you will, but by that same Gospel your destiny will be sealed.
On that day time will end and future eternity will begin. "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46).
Eternity - what does it mean? Actually, in human terms it is undefinable because it is infinite (unlimited), whereas all within our experience is finite (limited). But, to crudely illustrate its vast sweep, suppose that a tiny house fly were to scrape a minute particle of dust up on one of his little wings and begin the 92,900,000 mile journey to the sun at the rate of one mile per hour, deposit the particle, return to the earth at the same slow pace, and continue this process until the entirety of our globe, all six sextillion (6 followed by 27 zeros) tons of it, were transported to the sun. How would this compare with eternity? About like the snap of your finger compares to all human history from Adam to the present. And the comparison is inadequate, because, despite the enormity of the time involved, it is finite, not infinite.
If you have not prepared for destiny, you will spend that eternity in a horrible devil?s hell. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
The punishment will be terrible beyond human power to describe. Those miserable wretches so utterly condemned will burn without ceasing, with never any hope of relief. "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night" (Revelation 14:11). There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). Their companions forever will be the wicked of the earth.But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8)."But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie" (Revelation 22:15). Man's vicious adversary, Satan, and his angels will be their companions. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels' " (Matthew 25:41).
On the other hand, if you have prepared to meet your destiny, the beauty of an eternal inheritance in Heaven will await you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
What joy to spend eternity in that sweet home where we shall never again face the suffering of disease, the heartache of death, or the tears of departure. The loving Father shall tenderly comfort His children forever and ever. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
He shall be our light throughout endless ages, and the curse of sin will be forever lifted. "There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 22:5).
How blessed to be in the very presence of God, His Son, our beloved Savior, and the Holy Spirit. "God Himself will be with them and be their God" (Revelation 21:3). "And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him" (Revelation 22:3; cf. 1 Peter 1:12). The angels of God will be our companions, for they too are "in heaven" (Matthew 22:30). How delightful to walk and talk with Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Paul, Peter, and all the great men and women of faith from every age. Don't you long to go there?
Eternity is the common destiny of Adam's race. Where you spend that eternity is your decision. It depends on what you do with Christ and His Word. You can believe in Him, obey Him, and give your life to Him, and your eternal destiny will be the wonderful joy of heaven. Or you can refuse Him and His Word and suffer forever in hell. Where will you spend eternity?