Which Will It Be?

06/28/2008

Feeling a bit down?
Having a bad day?
Got troubles enough for ten people?

Have I got the answer for you!!

Does this sound like a commercial? Well it’s not; it’s what’s running through my brain right now after having read the book, “23 Minutes in Hell.” I read it last night, and started to read it again this morning. Recently I wrote about, “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper, which was awesome, but sometimes…sometimes…maybe, the Good News won’t grab our hearts as much as the bad news might. Let’s just say after reading about Hell through the experience shared by Bill Wiese, my heart has been grabbed!

I was talking to my husband, Jim, about what’s waiting in Hell, and told him it made me think about this Scripture:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live
the good life in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 (NLT)

I told Jim, “I hate to clean the shower. It’s my least favorite job, but I would clean showers every minute of every day throughout all of eternity in Heaven, rather than spend one minute in Hell.” After reading Wiese’s book, you may have the same reaction.

Now of course the question is who is Bill Wiese, and are we to believe his story about being in Hell? He writes, “I found myself being hurled through the air, and then was falling to the ground, completely out of control,” landing in a cell in Hell. Can we trust this? Believe this? I prayed about it, I asked God to help me know, to give me discernment while I read this book, and this is the conclusion I’ve come to so far…Bill Wiese may never have had this experience, but after reading his book which seems to match up with what God has to say about Hell in the Bible, I DON’T WANT TO GO THERE! AND! I DON’T WANT ANYONE ELSE TO GO THERE EITHER! If I had any doubt in my mind at all about what Hell was like, Bill’s story convinced me it’s a TERRIBLE place! Truth, dare, imagination, whatever…if I wasn’t a believer before starting to read his book, I would have dropped to my knees while reading it and pledged my heart and soul to Jesus Christ as Lord!

Why was Bill Wiese given this trip to Hell? Why not someone famous who already had a platform—someone who millions upon millions of people already know and would believe to be credible? Why? We can’t really know why because many times we can’t know the reasons for how God does things.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

I’m not pushing this book, so if you’re ready to quit on me here and stop reading this, please know that’s not the point of this message. I have no interest in convincing anyone to read this book—but instead, as Bill Wiese says, “Even if you don’t believe my story, I hope you will believe the Scriptures and avoid hell just the same.” There are a lot of crazy people in this world claiming many things, some even claim to be Jesus. Yes, we have to be careful. The Bible warns:

“And then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’
or, ‘There he is,’ don’t pay any attention.”
Mark 13:21 (NLT)

Jesus is not running around this earth appearing to a chosen few. Jesus already appeared three days after His crucifixion, and continued to be seen by many for the next forty days before His ascension—and when Jesus comes back next time, they’ll be no question about His appearing. We will ALL know it’s Him!

For now, what I’m most astounded by after reading about Heaven, and now reading this book on Hell, is the eye-opening, heart-palpitating revelation that not only is Heaven more than we could ever imagine—beyond our wildest dreams, and to be looked forward to with all our heart, soul, mind and strength—but that Hell is also more than we could ever imagine. Hell is beyond our worst nightmare and to be avoided at all cost! That’s why Jesus paid such a high price to save us from going there!

The point of writing this message, or to talk about this book at all, is to rally all those who believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ and warn anyone who will listen, “Please don’t make the eternal mistake of putting off the decision of Heaven or Hell.” It is our choice to make, but it’s a choice to make while we are still here…once we get there, wherever our there will be, it’s either the best choice we’ll have ever made, or the worst choice possible for all of eternity. The time is now, not tomorrow, or even later today, but now! Wiese writes, “My story is not one to condemn, but rather to inform you that hell is a real place—it does exist. God’s desire is that no one go there.”

Today is the day of salvation!

Some have said they don’t care to read about Hell, that it may cause nightmares, or too much fear in their hearts. I wondered the same; would I have nightmares after reading a book about Hell? I haven’t had any. I understand the hesitation since I am one who avoids movies filled with demons and Satan’s evil ways, but as believers we can find the Biblical descriptions of Hell to be more informative than fear-filled. With our assurance of an eternity lived in Heaven, we need not be afraid of the horrors of Hell. They are not our future! I was not scared, but instead even more grateful after learning in greater depth what Jesus has saved us from!

Charles H. Spurgeon writes: “To a true believer in Jesus, the thought of departing from this world and going to be ‘forever with the Lord,’ has no gloom associated with it. Heaven is our home. We are longing for the great reunion with our beloved Lord, from whom we shall then never be separated.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about “the good old days.” Why? Because I’m realizing more and more that we’re living in the good old days right now, on this very day. Whoever we are with, whatever we are doing, this minute, this hour, this is “IT,” and “IT” will never come again. Think back on the times when it was good, very good, and maybe we didn’t appreciate it like we should have—and then something happened in our life that changed everything. Things can change quickly, not always for the bad, but even when it’s good it’s still change. I know a couple of friends who are selling their homes right now, getting ready to make a move, for the good, for different reasons, but their lives, my life with them, will never be the same again. Not bad, just different.

Think about the road we drive on towards home and how we take it for granted, almost able to drive it without much notice. That’s probably why most automobile accidents happen within ten miles of our homes. It may not be until years later when we have moved far away, having left many things behind, that we return and become more aware of those familiar turns, those familiar houses we pass by—the same tall thin man that takes his walks down that one street…look, there he is just now. Yes, I can see him in my mind’s eye because he still walks the street that I drive now when I’m traveling that way to visit our kids/grandkids in the home they bought from us. When we owned that home, those were some of our good ole days, even though they were some of the most difficult days/years we lived through. Our son, Phil, was sick, very sick, and he died in his bedroom there, in our home, in their home. I’m thankful to be able to return there still, to visit those memories, to see the changes that have come. Phil’s bedroom is now purple and green, full of Tinkerbell décor, because our granddaughter sleeps there. I think Phil would be very pleased to know his niece now enjoys the room he slept in. As I watch this play out in life, I’m learning that each day now is a new good ole day…and it should be soaked in, lived in fully, because one day this day too will be in the past.

Recently, we sat around the dining room table at our kids’ house, enjoying a Father’s Day dinner together. The table we sat at was new to them, but old to someone else. I discovered it one day when I was doing laundry next door to the Shepherd’s Gate thrift store. Like I normally do, I go in and take a look around while the machines run. I spotted a table I thought the kids might like so I gave them a call. They were headed that way anyway, so they stopped in to take a look at it and liked it, bought it, and hauled it home. We have no idea who owned this table before, or the memories they made sitting around it, good or bad, but we can know that they did, and now we are making our own. That’s what makes every day a good ole day, because it’s ours to remember. More and more each day it’s good to learn to really take notice of those we’re with, to enjoy the sound of their voice, their laughter, their stories—because tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us here on earth—the only guarantee we have is an eternal life somewhere. This good old day is just as good a day as any to figure out where that somewhere will be. One place, Heaven, has been prepared for us. One place, Hell, was not designed for us. Which will be our eternal home?

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down
(that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a
house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and
not by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NLT)

After reading about Hell, what was impressed upon my heart was that no matter how terrible things on this earth can get—and most of us have seen and experienced some pretty gut-wrenching things—it doesn’t even come close to what being in Hell will be like. Some think this world is “Hell enough,” but this world doesn’t even compare to how bad things will be in the real Hell. No wonder the Apostle Paul could sing in his prison cell, perhaps waist high in sewage. He could do that because God was still with him, there was still joy in his heart, and most of all, there was still some Hope. In Hell, there is no Hope, no Hope, no Hope.

In difficult situations sometimes it’s asked, “How do you do it?” Some say, “I could never do that…nurse my mother, lose a child, go bankrupt, live again after betrayal followed by divorce....” You fill in the blank, but no matter what it is, the reason we are able to do it is because it’s not Hopeless here on earth. Nothing is completely Hopeless on earth. Nothing! Even if we don’t yet know Jesus as our Savior in the midst of our worst nightmare, we still have the Hope of finding Him and choosing to believe. I heard a true story of a man who had gone out for what he figured was his last walk on earth before taking his life—“Jesus” met this man on that walk in the form of two Christians who ended up praying with him and saving not only his earthly life, but his eternal soul.

We still enjoy some of the benefits of Jesus’ Light in this world, even if we are blinded to it. Even if we don’t want anything to do with Jesus, we can still have the artificial hope of knowing one day we will eventually die and be done, completely done. While we’re still alive on earth, there are medications available that can help us to feel some hope when hope seems lost, some even strong enough to induce a coma when the physical pain is unbearable. But there are no medications in Hell, not even to help with insanity. Losing our mind, which would actually be a form of relief in the fiery pit, is not an option…we will be fully cognizant of what we’ve lost, what we’re enduring, and what we’re facing. The suffering, the torment, the separation, the loneliness, the thirst…all the worst things we could ever think of will go on forever and ever, long past the energizer bunny!! Long past!!! And yet, sometimes we play around with such thoughts. We don’t take them seriously enough.

Just recently, we traveled to Oregon for our granddaughter’s first birthday. She was born last year on Father’s Day, and the first year has just flown by as she is now walking and starting to talk. In the small town of Lebanon, Oregon where our son and his family live, there is a sign in front of one of the churches there. My daughter-in-law enjoys sending me, via e-mail, the sayings they put up out front each week as some churches are known to do. We arrived to find the two-sided sign with this quotation, “Those who think white lies are okay may eventually become color blind.” Later, while driving by this church, we noticed someone had tampered with the sign, leaving the leftover letters in a pile on the ground. What was left on the sign now read, “Hell will rise.” I pray those who did this tampering know that Hell is real, and it is not to be toyed with.

In Hell we might think there’s no search for God, or Truth, or something “more,” because it’s not there, but from Weise’s account, this may not be so. He says we will know things, remember things, and it is excruciating! We may not know God, but we will remember all those we left behind, we’ll know who we’re missing, we’ll know we’re hopeless, we’ll know there’s no way of escape, and that it’s eternal. We’ll know we’re in the deep dark depths of the earth and that those up on the surface have no idea we’re there, and we can’t get a message to them. This is talked about in Luke 16:27-29, "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'”

Such torment is so polar opposite from Heaven! In our own son’s account of Heaven, I have found great comfort. Phil was given a glimpse of what was waiting for him on the other side shortly before his earthly body died. I have shared this story before, so I’ll keep it brief, but this is what he experienced:

I was with Phil, I was reading the Bible to him, and he started to cry. He said, “Mom everything you’re reading answers every question I have in my head.” Then with his eyes closed, Phil said he saw a light. I told him to go towards the light. He was gone for a while, I’m not sure how long, but when he came back his head went back into his pillow as he took in a deep breath. He then said in an angry tone, “Oh, I thought I was finished. I don’t want to be here anymore. I saw Heaven and it was so beautiful!” I knew Phil didn’t want to die, he had the will to live, but once he saw where he was going it no longer mattered who or what he was leaving behind, Heaven held everything his heart desired. It helps a parent to know that their child doesn’t miss them—ask any mom or dad who’s away on vacation and places a phone call home. If their child is happy, content and well cared for, it’s the best news we can hear! Our hearts are at rest and we are able to enjoy ourselves knowing there are no tears being shed. It does our heart good! That’s why Jim and I can be at rest with our son in Heaven… “It is well with our soul.”

So then, “How can a ‘good God’ send people to Hell?” That’s a question that has been asked through the ages. If God is good, if God is a loving Father, He wouldn’t do such a thing. God doesn’t “do such a thing,” we choose to go there by denying the existence of a Father who loves us and His Son who died for us.

One day I was driving a friend of mine to an appointment, and I said something about not getting into arguments with people if things are disagreed upon. Some things are not “hills to die on.” She asked, “Is that why we don’t talk about Hell anymore?” (She had told me before that although she was a believer, she didn’t believe Hell was real.) I said, “We can talk about Hell anytime you want to.” I knew, with her, it was not vital to her being saved because her salvation was secure in Jesus Christ. But what about those who don’t believe in Heaven or Hell? Perhaps the discussion of Hell is vital? Perhaps that’s a good reason to believe that Wiese’s story is true when he says Jesus told him many people don’t believe Hell is a real place and they need to know.

Jesus says, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the
everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Matthew 25:41

Our good God is not “sending” people to Hell, but He wants us to know about it! Hell was not even designed for human beings. From what Wiese says, the Demons in Hell don’t even like the humans that are sent there. Hell was not made for God’s children; it was made for the devil and his angels. In Hell, they see humans as those created in the image of God, and that’s not a good thing there. Nothing about God is good in Hell, because God is not there, and it’s not fit for any human being. Since Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, “It’s not fit for man nor beast.”

There is nothing we can do so right that would make us good enough for Heaven, and there is nothing we can do so wrong that would make us bad enough for Hell because it’s not about what we do or don’t do, it’s about what Jesus has already done. We don’t have any power in and of ourselves to change anything; the power is contained in both Heaven and Hell, one being full of Light and one being full of Darkness. The only thing we are called to do is to make a choice for one or the other, and not choosing is still counted as a choice. Sitting on the fence about a relationship with God is a dangerous place to be!

I have often wondered how Jesus was able to suffer so much at the hands of men for our sins. Many of us have probably seen “The Passion of the Christ,” and the horrific depiction of Jesus’ final days/hours on this earth. It’s hard to believe sometimes that He just didn’t say, “No way! I’m not doing this,” especially after His cries to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion, “Father, if there is any other way…”

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Why would He do that? Because Jesus is God, and He knew where we’d be going if He didn’t save us! Jesus had smelled the worst smells imaginable. He had seen the suffering, the torment, and the hopelessness. As Jesus was spit upon, stripped and beaten, persecuted, tortured to death, and perhaps even separated from His Father in the moment of His crying out, “Father, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus knew it was worth it, that we are worth it to Him, because He loves us that much…more than words can say. Jesus’ actions on the Cross speak louder than any words we might hear. Jesus died to save us from eternal torment! What a Friend we have in Jesus, indeed!!

Why did Adam and Eve have to leave the Garden of Eden after eating from the Tree of Knowledge? Because, if they had remained and then eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have lived forever, we would have lived forever, here on earth. (Genesis 3:22-23) As strange as it may sound, death is more of a gift than a punishment when we believe in what Jesus has left us with—we get to go to Heaven! Yes, those left behind when loved ones die are sad, but sometimes there will be such a great sadness they will choose to become believers, if only to see that person again. That is a very good thing. Sometimes there will be a turning further away from God when there is a death that touches us deeply…thinking this life is “Hell.” But even in death, especially in death, there is Hope because of Jesus Christ! If Jesus didn’t come to earth to give us this Hope, if He isn’t our Hope, then He isn’t Who we’re looking for and we better start a new search because life is short! But Jesus is Who we are looking for, and when we open our hearts to Him, we will know it!

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await
a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20 (NIV)

Jesus wants us to come Home when we’re done here, to the place He went ahead to prepare for us. It’s so very sad for Him to watch those who leave this earth heading towards Hell when Heaven is available for all those God created in His image. Yes, it was worth it to Jesus to suffer for us. Even Bill Wiese seemed to feel some of that when he wrote, “I believe the twenty-three minutes I spent in hell have caused me to accomplish more than I would have ever attempted to accomplish before the experience. The joy of seeing even one person come to Christ far outweighs any pain I experienced.”

As much as Jim and I miss Phil every single day of our lives, we know that this experience has changed our view of this world, and hopefully we’ll accomplish more than we ever would have attempted to do without it. To say it’s worth it is hard, it causes me even as I write this to take in a deep breath of air—but yes, knowing that Phil is safely Home in Heaven, feeling no pain, enduring no more suffering, and knowing we will see him again, we have Hope, and that Hope makes it all worth it. Perhaps through what Phil endured, because he lived, and suffered, and died to live again—and I continue to write about his story and others—at least one person will be spared the fiery pit of Hell. Our desire is that what was very bad in our lives be used for very good.

“The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.”
Charles H. Spurgeon

"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.
All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble,
and that day that is coming will set them on fire,"
says the LORD Almighty.
Malachi 4:1 (NIV)

As I write this it is a warm day, and to add to the seasonal heat outside, I have an occasional added “seasonal heat” inside—which many women my age are all too familiar with. It is the time of life we are in. In a way, it’s like passing through a tunnel filled with the Refiner’s Fire as we are entering into our golden years. This “tunnel” has a different length for everyone, and a different amount of heat contained in it, but most women around the age of 50 will experience it. Every so often it feels as if someone just turned the oven up about 400 degrees, and if I’m asleep when it happens it wakes me up, causes me to throw the covers off, slide open the widow by my side of the bed in our RV and let in a cool breeze! It doesn’t take long, and the “oven” will be turned off again—I’ll shut the window, pull the covers back on and usually go back to sleep—this can happen NUMEROUS times in one night. I’ve found some relief through prayers, not so much in mine for me, but others for me, and mine for others. Even today a friend stopped in and she said, “I’m praying for you at night!” I also have a prayer buddy who prays for me each time her oven gets turned up, and I do the same for her. It makes this torture more bearable because instead of thinking about ourselves when the heat is turned up, we’re glad to have the reminder to pray for each other. Oh…here it comes again…someone turned the oven on…I’ll take this time to pray….

Oh Lord, I pray for “S.” I pray she’ll have cool water on this hot day, I pray that she will be surrounded by her family today and know of Your continual watch over her and all that she cares about. I know she’s seen her share of sorrow in life, and that she knows You better through that journey, but it hasn’t been easy for her Lord. Help her each day now as the “oven” in life makes things a bit more difficult. We both know this season will pass, we both know Your care and Your love is for always, so help us each day to remember to pray to You, to look to You. I know “S” does, and I appreciate her prayers as things heat up and cool down in my life. It’s so good to think of another instead of this discomfort that seems so often these days. How good that she thought of the idea to pray for each other until it passes…it’s so like You to remind us that it is better to give than to receive. I feel the heat, as it just hangs in there for a bit, and then slowly moves away…if this is the enemy that’s come to torture Your child, I pray he feels completely defeated by the mention of Your name, the wonderful name of Jesus! Amen

It’s pretty much gone now, but another will come soon, and the prayers will continue. It can get very uncomfortable, but this is just a bit of extra heat here on earth, it does not compare to the fires of Hell. The heat there is beyond reasoning. We are not designed for intense heat like that, because Hell was not designed for us. In remembering one very hot day at an amusement park with a friend, the “seasonal heat” started in on her. She had to stop and be still for a few moments, she thought she might pass out. We won’t even have that relief if we end up in Hell, there’ll be no time to stop and rest. Now is the time to believe, and to pray!

In every battle you will need faith as your shield
to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.
Ephesians 6:16 (NLT)

Jesus is stronger than any weapon of the enemy, Satan. Weise wrote, “Suddenly, there in His presence, the demonic creatures I had just encountered in hell now seemed so powerless…God has given us as Christians the power of prayer.”

Life will be what life will be, good, bad, and sometimes even very ugly. We have choices to make in the midst of it. In Randy Alcorn’s book on Heaven, he writes,

“Earth is an in-between world touched by both Heaven and Hell. Earth leads directly into Heaven or directly into Hell, affording a choice between the two. The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.”

After reading about Hell, we might have a different perspective on even the worst this life has to offer. I know I do. When we’re having a bad day, feeling down, or having troubles enough for ten people, I start to wonder, “What is this compared to Hell?” It can diminish in comparison. As the rich man shouted in Luke 16:24, “Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in these flames.” How valuable one small drop of water became. Perhaps the opposite view can be taken on this earth. Perhaps the seemingly oceans of troubles this life contains can be compared to a mere drop of water when we fully realize what torment could await us in Hell without the love of God in our lives. On this earth when we face:

Our life here is but a vapor, troubles here are but drops of water. The blessings of Heaven far outweigh the trials of this world, the pain of this world, and the losses in this world. We can begin to understand how minimal the very worst here is when we start to comprehend how terribly real Hell is. Why do I capitalize Heaven and Hell? Because it’s like Randy Alcorn wrote in his book on Heaven, “Not to do so would imply that Heaven and Hell and the New Earth aren’t real places. But they are—they’re as real as the places we were born and the places we now live.”

Sure, we’d rather not think about Hell, but one day we won’t have to if we are willing to give it some serious thought right now…

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.
The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many
who choose that way.”            Matthew 7:13 (NLT)

Until we meet again,

Diane