Robert Jeffress - How Can I Know I'm Going To Heaven When I Die?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. If you believe that the Bible is true and that Christianity is the right religion, then logically, you would also believe what the Bible says about life after death. But surprisingly, many Christians have rejected some of the Bible's most basic teaching about the nature of life after death, and in particular the reality of hell. Today we're going to identify four non-negotiable truths that Jesus taught about that place of eternal judgment. My message is titled "How Can I Know I'm Going To Heaven When I Die?" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Jesus taught although there's one faith, there is not one destination for all mankind. There is one faith and there are two possible destinations. And we see those two destinations illustrated in the famous parable Jesus told in Luke 16. Now notice here two men both died, different destinies. Now I wanna make it clear here. The reason the poor man died and went to heaven was not because he was poor. There's nothing particularly righteous about being poor. And likewise the reason the poor man went to heaven was because of his name, we find that his name Lazarus, Eleazar, it means God is my helper.
Now this man had put his faith in God. The rich man died and he was buried, and he ended up in hades, the temporary place of the unsaved. The Bible says he was in torment. He didn't go to hell because he was wealthy. Job was a wealthy man. Abraham was a wealthy man. Wealth in and of itself does not disqualify you to eternal life. But apparently this man had depended upon his wealth for his salvation rather than on God. But what I want you to notice here is Jesus taught that there are two possible destinations when we die. And that leads to the second truth the Bible teaches us about eternity, and that is the reality of hell.
Jesus taught clearly about the reality of hell. Of the 1.850 verses in the New Testament that record the words of Jesus, 13% of them talked about hell or God's coming judgment. In fact, when you catalog the words of Jesus, Jesus spoke more often about hell than he did about heaven. Jesus believed that hell was a reality. Now many Christians dismiss that today. They say, "Oh, I believe was the Son of God. I believe in what he said about heaven, but I cannot accept his teaching about hell". That's intellectually dishonest to say "I'm going to selectively decide which of the teachings of Jesus I'm going to follow".
Now Jesus taught that hell was a reality. First of all, Jesus taught that hell is an actual location. Hell is an actual location. It's increasingly popular by some, even some Christians, to claim that hell is simply a state of mind. In fact, former pastor Rob Bell theorized that everyone goes to the same place when they die. Everybody goes to the same place, believers and unbelievers. However, unbelievers perceive that place to be hell, but believers perceive that very same place to be heaven. It is all a state of mind. But that's not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught there were two literal locations for the saved and for the unsaved. In Matthew 25:46, Jesus said, "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life". Some will go to be eternally punished, some will experience eternal life.
Now what I want you to see here is you can't say, "Well, I believe heaven is an actual location, but hell is a state of mind". You can't make sense of Jesus' words. Would Jesus be saying now, "Some are going to go into a real place called heaven, while others go into a state of mind"? No, Jesus taught that hell is just as real of a location as heaven is. Secondly, Jesus taught that hell is a place of indescribable and eternal torment. It is a place of indescribable and eternal torment.
Now look at how Jesus described the physical pain of this rich man who ended up in hades. Luke 16:24, "And the rich man cried out, 'father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I'm in agony in this flame'". Jesus often used the imagery of fire and brimstone to describe the physical agony of hell. In Mark 9:48, Jesus described hell as a place where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. So terrible! So horrific is the suffering in this place called hell that Jesus described the reaction of the occupants of hell this way in Matthew 22:13, "Then the king said to the servants, 'bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness: in that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'". All that occupants of hell can do in the midst of this terrible pain will be to cry continuously, and grind their teeth.
Now some people have tried to turn down the temperature of hell just a little bit, by imagining that when Jesus talked about the fire here of hell, he was speaking metaphorically, symbolically. That the fire here is not a literal fire, it's just symbolic. Now I'm gonna surprise some of you today by saying that's possible. That's possible that Jesus was speaking symbolically here when he talked about fire. But if Jesus was speaking symbolically, no one should find any comfort in that. Because if Jesus is using fire as a symbol here of the horrific physical suffering that awaits people in hell, what Jesus is saying is this, he is saying the actual suffering in hell is going to be so horrendous, so horrific that there are no words in the English language to describe it. The only way I can possibly describe to you what hell is really like is like having your flesh on fire day and night forever and ever and ever. That's what Jesus is saying about the reality of the suffering in hell.
Now some people, again, Christians can't believe that God would actually torment unbelievers day and night forever and ever, so they've adopted a view called annihilationism. They're not gonna suffer forever and ever, that's too terrible to comprehend, instead they will just land in like a fire and be burned up and destroyed. But, again, if you follow the teaching of Jesus, Jesus doesn't give us that option. Again, go back to Matthew 25:46. Jesus said, "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life". Now notice what Jesus is doing. He's comparing eternal punishment with eternal life. Hell with heaven. Jesus said the time unbelievers will spend in hell is eternal. It is eternal, everlasting punishment just as those of us who have trusted in Christ will spend eternity in heaven.
Number three, Jesus taught that hell will contain the majority of humanity. Hell will contain the majority of humanity. It's interesting, the polls reveal that the majority of Americans do believe in a place called hell. Did you know that? The majority of Americans do believe in hell but only a small percentage of people believe they will be in hell. You see, most people are pretty good folks, and so most people are gonna make it in heaven. It's only gonna be a few who are consigned to hell. After all, I mean, if you say heaven is only gonna be populated by Christians, why only a small percentage of the world's population are Christian. If you say only Christians are in heaven, that means billions and billions of people, not only who are living now but who have lived throughout all time. They're gonna be consigned to this place called hell, and that is just too terrible to think about. How could anybody in the right mind say only a few people are going to be in heaven and the majority of people are going to be in hell just because they haven't embraced Christianity.
Again, former pastor Rob Bell vehemently denies the idea that the majority of humanity would spend eternity in hell. He ridicules that belief with these words: "A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful joyous place called heaven while the rest of humanity spend forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for being anything better. It's been clearly communicated to many that this belief is central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus".
Now here's Bell's evaluation of that: "This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus's message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear". And yet in spite of the protests of Rob Bell's and other liberal Christians like him, Jesus was very clear in his teaching. Not only did he teach that hell was an actual location, he said the majority of humanity will spend eternity there. Again, go back to Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate: for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it". "But the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it".
And furthermore, Jesus went on to say that hell is not just going to be populated by the murderers, the rapists, and the drug dealers. Jesus taught that on this broad way that leads to hell are many good religious people, even people who profess to be Christians. Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. For many will say to me on that day", talking about the judgment, "'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles'? And then will I declare to them, 'i never knew you: depart from me those of you who practice lawlessness'".
To me, those are some of the most terrifying words in all the New Testament. The idea that hell is not just populated with the murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. It's populated with religious people. Even people who have deceived themselves into thinking they are Christians. Why is it so many people struggle with this teaching of Jesus that the majority of people will be in hell and only a few will enter into heaven? Why do we instinctively rebel against that idea? Don't you find that hard to believe?
Now be honest, isn't it hard for you to accept that only a sliver of humanity will make it to heaven and the majority of people will be consigned to eternal torment all because they haven't embraced Christianity? Why do we struggle with that idea? I think for two reasons. First of all, it's because we have a low view of God. The Israelites made a mistake of thinking that God was like they were. In Psalm 50:21, God corrected them. He said, "You thought I was just like you". See, we have a little view of God. We wanna bring God down to us. We wanna say God is just as tolerant of sin as we are. But what I wanna suggest to you is the reason you and I can overlook sin in other people's lives and in our own lives is not a sign of our God-likeness, it's a sign of how unlike God we really are. Because God is not like we are.
In Habakkuk 1:13, the Word of God says, "God is pure holiness. He is one whose eyes are too pure to approve evil and who cannot look on the wickedness with favor". God's eyes are too pure to approve evil. He's unlike we are. He cannot look on sin with favor. He can't laugh about sin like we do sometimes. The reason we struggle with this idea that so many people are gonna be in hell is we really have a low view of God. But coupled with our low view of God, most of us embrace a high view of ourselves. A high view of ourselves that makes us doubt that most people and especially us should be destined for hell. That inflated sense of our own goodness helps explain why it is that only 4% of Americans think that they are deserving of hell.
I mean, honestly, we all tend to think we're pretty good people, don't we? And the reason we think we're pretty good people is we have a flawed measurement of our goodness. When we're measuring our goodness, our relative goodness, whether or not we're deserving of heaven or not, how do we measure ourselves? We usually look for people to compare ourselves to that are worst that we are, or so we think. We choose the murderers, the rapists, the drug dealers. And we say, "Well, compared to that person, I'm a pretty good fella". We never use people for comparison that are better than we are. We don't compare ourselves to priests and the nuns. We always choose the murderers, the rapists, and the drug dealer.
And so, relatively, we think we're pretty good people. But you see, the measurement that God uses is not other people: it's himself. God compares our righteousness to his perfect righteousness. And by that standard we all come woefully short. And we can compare ourselves Adolf Hitler. And we can come up with the idea we're pretty good, we're sure a lot better than Adolf Hitler is. The difference between us and Adolf Hitler, the moral difference is considerable. Hopefully, it's considerable for you. It's considerable but that difference is negligible when we compare our righteousness to the righteousness of a perfect God. And by that standard, we all fall short.
Romans 3:23 says, "For all of us have fallen short. We've sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". Unbelievers will spend eternity in hell not because they're not good, but because they're not good enough. There's a fourth truth Jesus taught about hell and that is Jesus taught that hell is a forever destination.
Some people have theorized that those peoples who find themselves in hell will one day be won over by the love of God and will be transported into heaven. One pastor writes, "At the heart of this perspective is the belief that given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God's presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart, even the most depraved sinners will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God".
Now the problem with such a belief is, again, as nice at it sounds, it completely contradicts the teaching of Jesus Christ. What did Jesus say about the possibility of repentance after we die? And Jesus taught that hell is a forever fixed destination. Go back to Luke 16. Now the story of the rich man who died and ended up in hell, he begs to Abraham, "Abraham, give me relief from an agony in this flame". Abraham says he's unable to do so. And then the rich man cries out, "Well, if you can't help me, please send someone back to earth to warn my siblings, my brothers about the awful fate that awaits them".
Apparently, this hardened rich man had had a change of heart. He was now compassionate. He now cared about others. He now believed in the reality of heaven and hell. So he said, "At least if you can't help me, please, Abraham, send somebody to warn my siblings". Notice Abraham's response in Luke 16:26. He said, "It's impossible to do that". He said, "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm that is fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us".
Hear what Jesus is saying between heaven and hell, there is a great chasm, a great gulf that is fixed. And just as it is impossible for people in heaven to go to hell, it is equally impossible for anyone in heaven to cross that gulf and go to hell, go to heaven. There is a gulf between heaven and hell that cannot be crossed. But, pastor, what if somebody in hell finally bows down before God, gets on his knees and said, "Jesus, I know I'm a sinner. I believe, I believe, Jesus, I trust in you". Jesus said, "It's too late. For you see, in hell, everyone's a believer".