“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” -Luke 9:25
Some people find it easy to believe there is a Heaven, a place above and beyond, even though they may not know or believe in what it takes to actually go there. In the same way, people have some belief in hell and at the same time have no idea how they may end up there. There are those who believe they will be in heaven because they have been good people, they have given to the poor, and helped others among other good deeds. Then there are those who believe that hell may be a possibility for the Hitlers or Isis of the world or the vilest offenders to children or the innocent. They too, are the ones that often think that we all experience hell here on earth. Let me stop right here and say this, from what I have read, studied and believe, any hell we think we have endured here on earth will seem like a picnic when compared to spending a minute in the hell that Jesus says those without belief in Him will experience.
Yes. Hell is real. Yes. Heaven is real. They both are eternal. The word eternal is also something our finite minds have a hard time with. In the day of instant everything and living in the moment, many choose not to set goals for a year out, because we are so consumed in the pleasure of now or the immediate concerns or pressures that rule our entire being.
I have come to understand more clearly the story that Jesus tells about how hard it will be for the rich man to enter into heaven.
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” -Matthew 19:24 ESV
Jesus was answering this young mans question on how to enter heaven. Jesus begins by reminding the young man that he knew the commandments to follow. The young man said he did and he had been good to follow them. Then Jesus knowing the heart of this young man, asked him to sell his possessions and follow him. The young man was sad, because his identity and security were wrapped up in things. He was very rich. Jesus wants our hearts to be set on Him, not possessions or comfort. It is not that Jesus is against wealth or a lifestyle of comfort, on the contrary every good gift and all riches are from above.
“I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!” -2 Chronicles 1:12 NLT
I have witnessed this rich young ruler first hand over the years as I have been able to spend time with many successful people who do not believe in God. Really good people who have worked hard and made a name for themselves. They keep the rules, (at least most of them) they give generously and help many people. They have reached a level of comfort and a lifestyle that may be the envy or goal of many. The best transportation, the finest of clothes, the delicacies of food and drink, the admiration and respect of their peers, all are enjoyed in their beautiful prestigious homes. They are removed from the life of poverty and struggling, the pains of hunger or thirst, and any feeling of naked exposure. Some call it “The Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous.”
It is those who live this lifestyle without the promise of their salvation in Christ and heaven, not only remain a mystery to me, but ones that I hurt the most for. They are in my prayers daily.
I am proud of them and for them for their accomplishments and many times I have been the recipient of their fruits by generous invitations and gifts. The reason I hurt so deeply for them is that they are going to miss out on the real riches, the best of the best, the most magnificent mansions and the never ending lifestyle of true bliss. And the mystery I speak of lies within a question I so often ask in my mind.
“How could someone who loves the finer things, dines at the best tables filled with food and drink, have experienced great enjoyment from travels and recreation, take a chance that hell is not real? ” Of all people, those who love their comfort and pleasures, would risk an eternity of horrific torment for their choice of unbelief in the saving grace of God through his son Jesus. Yes, this is a true mystery for me.
My prayer is for all the lost, rich or poor to know the love of Christ. To God be all glory and honor. May their minds be opened to the reality of both heaven and hell. May they somehow grasp some meaning of eternity, and may their hearts be soften NOW to know and trust Jesus Christ. That He is the Son of God and that belief in Him and what He did on the cross is their only way to an eternal life of riches, blessings and comfort. And on the flip side of that coin, that they also believe that without Jesus they will have eternal separation and horrific discomfort in hell.
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6 NLT