The Horror of Waking Up In Hell
July 16th, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
THE HORROR OF WAKING UP IN HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-16-86 7:30 p.m.
In our Bible let us turn to the sixteenth chapter of Luke, and we are going to read out loud the last half of that chapter. Luke chapter 16, we begin at verse 19 and reading to the end of the sixteenth chapter. Luke chapter 16, beginning at verse 19—now all of us reading out loud together:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Out of all of the Word of God, not anything could be more serious or laden with eternal significance than this Word we have just read from the lips of our Lord. Nor is there a subject that is more significant for the destiny of our human souls than this subject tonight: The Horror of Waking Up in Hell. When I think of the eternity that lies before us, my mind cannot enter into the unendingness of the centuries untold in which our souls shall live. I cannot think of it.
If this globe, if this earth were a solid granite and if a little bird came one time every ten thousand years to sharpen its little beak on this solid earth granite, when the little bird would have worn this solid earth granite away, one second of eternity would not have begun. My mind cannot enter into it.
And this life is like one little drop of water compared to the vast oceans. My little lifetime is like one grain of sand compared to the vast thousands of miles of beaches that line the oceans of the earth. What I do now and what I am now is so insignificant in size and in time compared to the eternity that lies ahead.
There is another thing that brings great and infinite pause to our hearts. And that is that death is so final. There is no second chance. When I leave this life, I leave it forever. And my destiny is determined and fixed by the time that I die. Do you remember this in the passage you just read? “And beside all this, between us and you a great gulf is fixed” [Luke 16:26].
That word “great gulf,” there are two words that comprise it that are familiar to you. The one translated “gulf” is chasma, and you have the English word “chasm” from it. And the Greek is mega; chasma mega; a great gulf. And that word “fixed” is so much that. In the Greek, it is a perfect passive, which means “to set firmly, to stand immovable and immobile,” from the Greek word histēmi, “to make to stand, to set full, to appoint, to establish, to confirm.”
It is final. When I die, my state is forever and eternally fixed! It is appointed. It is confirmed. It is made to stand. And if I am in heaven, that is my home forever. And if I am in hell, that is my estate forever. And I tremble even before the thought, much less in the experience in human life.
May I point out another thing in the seriousness and significance of the destiny that awaits us? What is so tragic in us, that Christ came down from heaven to save us? [Luke 19:10; Hebrews 10:5-14] Why did He come, leaving heaven and Paradise and glory to come down into this world to assume our human flesh, to suffer crucifixion, to die? [Philippians 2:6-9]. What is there about us that brought Him down from heaven to pay that penalty of our sins? [1 Corinthians 15:3].
Well, let’s just see what is suggested as you listen to preachers preach and as you read Christian literature. Why did Christ come down from heaven? Well, He came down, some say, because of our social maladjustments. He came down because some of us are afflicted with poverty. And He came down in order that we might have a more affluent and abundant life. There’s not anything in social maladjustments to which political processes do not address themselves. It always has been. It is today. When you read in the papers about Congress or about the legislatures or about all of the political parties, that’s what they are talking about. They are running for office or they are passing laws in order to tune the social life of our nation and our people. That’s what they’re doing.
Well, some would say, as you listen to them and read about them, the reason Christ came down from heaven was because of our human behavior. He came down to teach us a marvelous system of ethics. The only thing about that is great teachers have been coming into this world, teaching us behavior, morality, ethics, from the beginning of time. I can name some of the tremendous teachers of this world, and their philosophies, and their morality, and their pedagogy, and their instruction is excellent.
Hammurabi was almost a contemporary with Abraham, and the Code of Hammurabi is one of the finest governmental instruments ever written. That’s about two thousand years before Christ. Some of the great teachers of the world are found in the stoic, philosophical group. You have Plato and the Platonists. You have the Neoplatonists. You have Seneca, who was the teacher of the Roman emperors. You have Marcus Aurelius, who was one of them. You have an endless succession of moral teachers.
Did Jesus come down into this world in order to teach us morality and ethics? We already had the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17] and the Old Testament revelation of God. Are they not enough to guide human life in ways of righteousness and goodness? Did Jesus come in order to say things and to teach us ways beyond the morality of the Ten Commandments? We already had them.
Well, maybe He came to establish a new religion, another one. Do you think that this earth perishes because it doesn’t have enough religions? The Jewish religion began about 2000 BC. Buddhist religion began in 560 BC. Jainism began in 600 BC. Shintoism began in 660 BC. Zoroastrianism began in 660 BC. Taoism began in 604 BC. Confucianism began in 551 BC. Hundreds and hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years before Christ, there were religions, religions, religions—the whole world filled with religions. Did Christ come in order to establish a new religion?
Let me avow according to the Word of God. He came down from heaven to die for our sins that we might be saved [Romans 5:6; Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 10:4-14]. That is the reason for the incarnation of Christ [Matthew 1:20-23]. That’s the reason for Christ coming into this world that we might be delivered from the judgment of hell and from the awesomeness of an eternity shut out from God. That’s why the Lord said: “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” [Luke 19:10]. That’s why He said: “This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28]. That’s why the apostles preached: “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12]. That’s why Paul wrote we are to “Be reconciled to God” [2 Corinthians 5:20]. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:2].
And may I summarize? When I stand here in this pulpit to preach as an emissary from our Lord Christ, I am not as such to preach social maladjustments, all kinds of ethics, all kinds of human behavior, presenting one more system of morality. What I am to do when I come before this pulpit and preach, I am to deliver the message that Christ died for our sins to save us from hell and damnation [1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:6; Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 10:4-14], and the call for repentance and faith is hereby extended [Acts 20:20-21]. I am to believe and be saved [Acts 16:30-31].
Our assignment in the pulpit has nothing as such to do with the social gospel, addressing domestic, political, personal, financial, national, or local problems. They are incidental compared to the all-important appeal of Christ that we turn and be saved [Isaiah 45:22; Acts 16:31]. What does it matter five hundred million billion years from now whether I died poor or rich? What does it matter? What does it matter whether I was even well or not? What does it matter whether I was known or not, whether I was successful or not? After I am dead for millions and billions and trillions of years, what does it matter, except that I have a place with God in heaven? [Revelation 21:1-7].
May I ask another plain and self-answering question? If I preached a social message, a social gospel, and give myself to all of the domestic and financial and personal problems in human life, if I do that, who is going to preach the salvation in the Lord Jesus? Will the city council do it? Do you think the state legislature will do it? Do you think the national Congress will do it? Do you think the United Fund will do it? Do you think the charitable trusts will do it?
If I turn aside from preaching the gospel of Christ, who is going to preach it? It will not be preached, ever. But if I preach the gospel and I can persuade men to accept the Lord Jesus Christ, there are no problems—domestic, personal, political, economic—there are no problems that are not inherently and consequently solved if I can get a man to trust in Jesus Christ and give himself to the Lord.
I can illustrate that endlessly. Stand up here and preach, “Man, you ought not to beat your wife every Saturday night. Don’t beat your wife every Saturday night.” He gets drunk and he beats his wife up every Saturday night. If I can get that man to the Lord, to give himself to the Lord, do you think I’d have to say anything about getting drunk every weekend? Do you think I’d have to say anything about beating his wife up every Saturday night? If I can get that man to the Lord, there are no problems that are not solved. He’s a new man. He’s born again [John 3:3, 7]. He’s a new creature [2 Corinthians 5:17]. God does it.
One time, years ago, we had a meeting down here, in Coleman Hall, of people, men and women, families, who had been ministered to and blessed by our chapels, our missions. I’m not exaggerating it when I say to you that I wept for over two hours, just seated there. Well, what was it that so moved my heart? It was this. What they did that night at the Christmas party, they had men and women from our missions who stood up that night and gave their testimonies, what God had done for them. And it was like listening to the angels of heaven, these present that night, one after another. Man standing up, saying what a drunkard he was, or what a gambler he was, or what a thief he was. Just every kind of human degradation that you could think for, stand up there and say, “I was that.” Then turn to this mission pastor or to this godly Christian worker and say, “And he came to my house, and he brought with him the message of Christ, and I was wonderfully saved. And now …” Then he described the beautiful life that he now lives in the Lord.
That’s the way to solve human problems. That’s the way to solve domestic problems. That’s the way to solve social problems. That’s the way to solve political problems. There are no problems that cannot be solved in the acceptance of the message of Jesus Christ as our Savior. It’s a new world. It’s a new birth [John 3:3, 7]. It’s a new life. That’s the saving grace of our wonderful and blessed gospel [Ephesians 2:8].
And these problems compared to the eternity that awaits us are as nothing. I repeat, as I said a moment ago, “What does it matter five hundred million, trillion years from now if I’ve been poor all of my life, or I’ve been unknown all of my life, or if I’ve been what the world says is unsuccessful all of my life? I’m a failure all of my life in their eyes. What does anything matter millions and billions and trillions of years from now? What does anything matter except that I know the Lord, except that I am with Him in heaven?” [Revelation 21:1-7].
Now may I close? That is why the urgency of our gospel, the message of Christ. Do we dare die without the Lord? Do we dare die without Christ? Do we dare rear our children without the knowledge of the Lord? Is the church optional? Do we join a church in the same way that we join a club? You can join or you not join. It’s just immaterial; it’s just in your decision. But these things that we speak of are not optional. They are vitally eternal.
I don’t die like an animal. I have a soul. And I shall someday day stand before God, and I shall give an account to Him what I have done with the saving, atoning death of my Lord. Did I accept Him? Did I receive Him? [John 3:36; 1 John 5:12]. Did I turn to Him in loving faith? [Ephesians 2:8]. Or did I spurn the gospel and pass it by? Was I too busy with the things of this world to take time for the things of God?
I do not die like an animal. I have a soul, an eternal soul. And someday, I shall stand before the great Judge of all the earth and give an account of what I have done with the saving, loving, tender, appealing message of Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and the hope of the world [Ephesians 2:12]. That is why our work is so, so important, why it weighs upon our hearts. When we come to these services, O God, may these in attendance who don’t know Thee as Savior, Lord, may they find Thee as Savior.
And these families up and down these streets, Lord God in heaven, help us to woo them and win them to the blessed Savior. And these services that we hold, Lord God in heaven, how important that we have the saving presence of Jesus in our midst—these are not just exercises that are immaterial, indifferent. These things that we do for Christ in our church, Lord God, eternity depends upon the decisions that are made when we present the gospel of Christ.
Please, Lord, may we do it in a way that God can bless powerfully, wonderfully, gloriously, heavenly. Lord God, meet with us when we gather here in this sacred place. Go with us when we testify up and down these streets and in the marketplaces. And then, Lord, when we stand in this sacred pulpit, may it be that the message we bring is one of everlasting salvation.
Now, may we pray? Our Lord in heaven, when we read such things in Thy Holy Word as the story of this rich man, Dives, who was too busy with the things of this world to make room in his heart for God [Luke 16:19-31], O God in heaven, how many are just like him, consumed with the affairs of this world, lost and in hell? Great God in heaven, what does it matter whether Lazarus was poor and a beggar or whether he was rich and lived in a palace? What does it matter for these thousands and thousands and now, ultimately, millions and millions of years that he’ll be with Thee in heaven?
O God, we are brought to our knees. Our minds are staggered before these awesome decisions that are made. Precious Lord, why did You come down from heaven to die for our sins that we might be saved? [Hebrews 10:4-14]. Lord God, give us souls. In this city, there are hundreds of thousands who are lost. And, precious Savior, may we never forget that God hath saved us to save others, to witness, to pray, to invite, to make appeal, to preach the gospel of salvation, to gather here to point to the cross, to Jesus who alone is our hope and our life [John 14:6; Acts 4:12]. And, our Lord, could it be that even tonight in this midweek service some would turn to Thee in saving faith? “Lord, I want to be saved. I don’t want to spend an eternity in the torment and flame and fire of damnation [Revelation 20:15]. I want to be saved. I want to live for Jesus now, and I want to live with Him in the world to come.” And, our Lord, as we sing our word of appeal, and as our people in this moment ask God’s saving grace to be felt among us, may the Lord in heaven give us souls. Please, Lord, may no one—may no one leave this hour, lost. But when the benediction is said, may it be that all of us are in the kingdom; all of us are saved. Thank You for Thy listening ear and Thy loving presence and for dying for us that we might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3], in Jesus’ wonderful name, amen.
In this moment when we sing our song of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord; “Preacher, tonight, this night, I’m accepting Christ as my Savior, and here I stand.” Or a family to come into the church, to pray with us and to help us magnify the Lord; or to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, as we sing this song of appeal, you come and stand with us. God bless you. Angels attend you. The Lord open the way. Make the decision in this quiet moment, an eternal decision, and when you stand up, stand up taking that first step. God bless you in the way now and forever, in this world and in the heaven to come. Do it, while we stand and while we sing. This is God’s day for me. Come.
THE HORROR OF WAKING UP IN HELL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-16-86I. The eternity we face
A. If earth solid graniteâ€¦once worn away, only one second of eternity begun
B. This life is like one drop of water in the vast oceansII. Death so final
A. No second chance
B. My destiny determined and fixed by the time I die (Luke 16:26)
1. “Great gulf” – chasma mega
2. “Fixed” – histemi – “to make to stand, to set firmly”III. What is so tragic in us, that Christ came down from heaven to save us?
A. Social maladjustments, poverty?
1. Political processes to remedy
B. To teach us a system of ethics, behavior?
C. To establish another new religion?
D. According to the Word of God
1. He came to die for our sins that we might be saved (Luke 19:10, Matthew 26:28, Acts 4:12, 2 Corinthians 6:2)IV. Our assignment, ministry
A. The social gospel
B. Who will be left to preach the gospel of salvation?
C. No problems that cannot be solved in acceptance of Jesus as SaviorV. Why the urgency of the gospel
A. Do we dare die without Christ?
B. We do not die like an animal; we have a soul