Michael Youssef - Who is Going to Heaven? (Enduring Wisdom)
Beloved, labels have never saved anyone. Labels have never taken anyone to heaven. And our passage for today in Luke 13 beginning at verse 23, some unknown person asked Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few"? Listen carefully to the question, it's a profound one. And in verse 24 of Luke 13, Jesus does not really answer the question but he tells the man the very essence of the Christian faith. This is very important particularly today when we have so many people who claim to be Christians, so many people who claim to be followers of Jesus. They could be living in open sin, in open rebellion against God and against his Word, but then nonetheless they call themselves Christians. That is why this passage is of vital importance. Who goes to heaven? They want to think that everyone when they die they go to heaven. All with their sin, with their rebellion against the holy God. They're all just gonna go in with all their baggage.
Now the answer to the question is the true essence of the Christian faith and is found in our passage for today. Luke chapter 13. Now, I'm just gonna tell you one thing and I'm gonna repeat that. This is the last days in the life of our Lord. He was making his journey to Jerusalem. It takes an hour and a half by car, but our Lord walked it day after day through the villages, through the towns. He knew this is the last moment for people to hear him, calling them and inviting them to come and repent and believe in him. And so, as he continues in that journey, someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved"? The question that this man asked Jesus has been asked by millions of people in million different ways. The way this man asked the question, "Will those who be saved are few"?
Is very intriguing way of asking the question. And Jesus does not give him percentages. He does not give him numbers. He does not say small or many, but Jesus in effect left us all without a doubt that those who are gonna enter heaven will be those who are willing to surrender their sin to Jesus. That those who are willing to surrender their pride and their desire for self-salvation, only those who surrender their self-righteousness, only those who surrender their self-will, only those whose vehicle that will take them to heaven is the blood of Jesus Christ. In Romans 5:9, the apostle tells us, "Since therefore we are justified by his blood". By who? "We shall be saved from the wrath of God through him".
The only people are gonna make it to heaven are those who have repented of their sins, who have grieved over their sins, have surrendered their sins and been washed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The question this unknown man asked here in verse 23 is a genuine question, is a real question, don't dismiss it. It's a real, real genuine question on the part of this person, why? Because you see the Jews in the time of Jesus, those who are listening, those who are there expected that when the Messiah come, he will save their nation, and that's it. That's it, nobody else. He was on his way to die on that cross to be crucified and shed his blood for the sins of every repentant sinner, and so Jesus's answer was, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate, because many, will tell you that they will try".
Yes, Jesus said they will try. They're gonna go to heaven with all of their baggage and they will give you variety of reasons as why they think they're going to heaven. If you ask them they say, "Because I go to mass every Sunday, or I take communion every Sunday, or because they keep their church rituals on a ceremony, or because God just is a good cool Jesus is gonna let everybody in, or I like the Jesus who's a cool guy". No, no, no, beloved, listen to me, Jesus's original heroes who were listening to him, they thought that by virtue of their birth, by virtue of their ethnicity, by virtue of the fact that they are physically the descendant of Abraham, that they are a shoo-in into heaven and Jesus disabuses them of this. Here me out please, Jesus is not teaching salvation by works never, never, never, never, far from it.
In fact, he's saying the very act of humble repentance before God, the very act of self-denial is a clear indication of salvation. I believe very few people can say with John the Baptist, "I must decrease and he must increase". Nothing in me, nothing in me, all of him. Or like the song says, "Nothing in my hand I bring". Or like the other song that says, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus". What about you? What about you? What about the person who says, "Well, I've done some good things". Oh, that belongs to the wide gates. What about the person who says, "I hope that my good is gonna outweigh my bad". Oh, no, no, no, that belongs to the wide gate. What about the person who says, "But I went to church every time the doors were open". That belongs to the wide gate. What about the person that "I have done lots of charitable work". That belongs to the wide gate.
The word strive here is a Greek word, "Agonizomai" from which we get the word agonize. And beloved, listen to me, if you do not experience agony of soul that leads to repentance, if you do not take up your cross on a daily basis and follow Jesus, if you do not know what it means to daily die to self, if you do not know what self-sacrifice is, you could be heading for the wide gate not a narrow one. If you have embraced Christianity because somebody told you that this is the way to prosper in this life, or because this is the way you get some cheap salvation, or because this is the way you can develop self-esteem, then it is time to cry to the Lord, "Show me your way".
Look at verses 24 and 25. It is a picture of those who will be protesting on this final day of judgment for those who will not make it to heaven. "But we participated at communion, we participated in mass. But we went to church at Christmas and Easter. But we believed in that Jesus is a good man. But we believe that Jesus is a great prophet. But we believe that Jesus is a wonderful teacher. We liked Jesus's teaching. We tried to live by the golden rules". Will not work, that will not work, that will not work. Let me ask you this; have you ever asked yourself the question whether you are truly authentic believer of the Lord Jesus Christ? Not just believe in Jesus, but believe Jesus and take him at his Word.
In verse 28 all the way to 30, there are some of the most powerful verses in all of the Gospels because in these verses, Jesus reveals a very surprise explanation and a very vivid description of hell. I know some of you probably are asking right now, what is this thing about Abraham, Isaac and people from the East and the West? In the Old Testament, people were saved by looking forward 2,000 years. They're looking forward to the day when Jesus comes, dies on a cross and rises again. Every one of the prophets have predicted him. In fact that is why Jesus said, Abraham, remember this, 2,000 years before Jesus, Abraham, "Abraham saw my day and rejoiced". How did he see Jesus's day? By faith. And everyone from Abraham on that is saved in the Old Testament, is saved by faith, by looking forward to the coming of the Messiah and dying on that cross for their sin and rising again, by faith.
How are the New Testament people are saved after Christ? By that same faith, the same faith. We look back by faith 2,000 years ago. By faith we look back to the cross of Christ and the shedding of his blood for my sins and your sins, and then rising again with the power of his omnipotence. That's why the book of Revelation said they're gonna be from every tribe and every nation, every tongue. They're gonna be coming from every corner of the globe, and they're gonna be participating with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the kingdom of God, at the marriage supper of the Lamb, but those who are so close, those who are physical descendants of Abraham and yet rejected Jesus, they will be in agony.
Now, I want to use your imagination here just for a little bit. Just use your imagination with me for a minute. Now, these Pharisees, they kept all of the external trappings of the religion. They kept all the external ones. These are the religious rituals but they're heading for hell. I want to say to the faithful pastors and church leaders who are against all odds even against vehement opposition, we must love them enough to care about their eternity and speak the truth that we must not acquiesce to them misguidedness. That we must love them enough to proclaim Jesus is the only way. We must not worry about whom we're gonna offend, but who we're gonna warn. We must not buy into the deception of wanting to be liked so long as we go along with their falsehood. No, no, no, and a million no. Stand firm, stand firm, stand firm. Jesus made people either feel bad enough to repent, or furious enough to reject.
Look at verses 31 and 32, 33 with me please as an exhibit A of the Pharisees' hypocrisy here. You know, from the moment of his birth, Jesus is been targeted for killing. I mean, Satan wanted to kill Jesus as he was a baby. Remember, Herod killed all the babies in Bethlehem? I mean from day one, from the day he was born, they wanted to kill him. They wanna kill the sinless, the only sinless, perfect, absolute righteous, holy, compassionate, generous, and benevolent Jesus. In verse 31, the first glance when you read that and you think, oh these Pharisees, these hypocrites really are concerned about Jesus.
I mean, they hated Jesus. They didn't wanna kill Jesus, but you think they were concerned about him, that they were trying to be compassionate about Jesus said, "Get out of here. Get out of here. Herod wants to kill you". But Jesus was not going to be fooled by their pretending to be concerned for him. He knew that he was going to Jerusalem. He's on his way to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But listen to me, but even the gentle lamb is suspicious of wolves when they pretend to be concerned for the lamb's safety.
Think about it. What does our wise Lord say to that? "Let me give you a message that you can take to Herod. Go and tell that Fox". Translation, "Go and tell this conniving, worthless rat". That's a Youssef translation.
"I will cast demons, and I'll heal the sick on my own schedule. I will accomplish my goal on my own timetable. I will do the will of my Father until the time is up. I will do what I came from heaven to do until it's accomplished. I will go to Jerusalem on my own terms. I will go to the cross on my own terms. I will pay for the wages of every repentant sinner on my Father's watch. I will accomplish all things according to the council of my will. I will lay my life down for my sheep, by the sovereign determination of the will of the Father. I fear no threats of those who think that they can stop me. I will not be intimidated by those who think they have power over me. I will not be silenced or pushed around by those who think that they are powerful. As it is, I'm heading for Jerusalem. I know what awaits me there. I know what I'm gonna accomplish there. I know it's in Jerusalem where the prophets have been persecuted and killed, and I am going there".
Beloved, make no mistake about it, make no mistake about it. Herod did not kill Jesus. Pontius Pilate did not kill Jesus. Judas Iscariot with his betrayal, did not kill Jesus. Caiaphas the high priest did not kill Jesus, it was the Father's will that his Son die on that cross to redeem repentant sinners. Jesus is the one who took himself to that cross. And he said in the book, Gospel of John, he said, "I have authority to take it up. I have authority to lay it down, but I'm gonna lay it down because that is the way I'm gonna redeem and ransom my children".
All these people from Herod, to Pontius Pilate, to Judas, to the high priest, oh they will pay for their guilt. They'll be judged for that, but God in his sovereign will decided that Jesus will die on that cross to pay for the wages of my sin and the punishment of your sin, and the sin of everyone who'll repent and turn to him. And then, on the third day, he will vindicate him by raising him up with every ounce of his omnipotence, out of the grave. And beloved I've been to Israel many times. Every time I go and look, the tomb is empty. Our God is not only sovereign, is not only a holy God, but don't ever forget the other side of the coin is that he's a compassionate God, he's a compassionate God.
Look at verses 34 and 35. I hope that when you go home that you read those words again, and again, and again, and again. Just read and feel the incredible passion of the Lord Jesus Christ and his passion about those who have rejected his message, who have rejected his salvation, who have rejected his truth. This is of course an agrarian image. Agrarian image and I grew up in a culture where I could see with my own eyes, when the hen takes her brood under her wings. And this is a constant biblical theme. When Jesus cried Jerusalem, Jerusalem, and this double mention is always for emphasis.
Always like when Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, the devil wants to sift you as wheat". Or when he said, "Martha, Martha". "Oh Jerusalem, despite of all your past sins and your persecuting and killing of the prophets, I still long for you to repent and turn to me". This deep longing on the heart of Jesus. He wanted them to repent from their false religion and come under his wings. It is only, only, under his wings can you find refuge, sustenance, warmth, and security. All other so-called securities, they are temporary and shallow at best.
Finally comes the grand finale of the prophecy. "Behold, your house will be left desolate". Oh, when people set their wills to reject him, listen to me, God finally respects their will, he will. Just as he accepted Jerusalem's rejection of him as their Messiah. This is the city where the temple of God was. Think about this. This represented the presence of God. Yes, that too will crumble.
You know, and I know that on 70 AD, 70 AD, that was just 36 years, 37 years after Jesus uttered those words, Jerusalem was raised to the ground. The prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled with meticulous precision. And beloved, the return of Christ and the judgment of God will be fulfilled as it is says with meticulous precision. For those who have rejected Jesus and created a Jesus in their own image, not the Jesus of the Bible, they will face consequences. I pray to God not one person who's watching around the world or here in this beautiful sanctuary could ever be among those.