2004-04-29 - No Atheists Here
Luke 16:23-24 "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.' (NAS)
Tim quoted Thomas Adams earlier in the week. The devotional was striking, but one of the quotes has rung in my mind since that evening.
"There may be atheists on earth; there are none in hell." - "Commentary on Second Peter", 1634, Thomas Adams (1612-1653)
Spurgeon correctly pointed out that there are no atheists in Heaven either. It is only in this life, where we are called on to determine what to do with this Savior and Messiah, that we are given the opportunity to not believe because we can not see with our eyes, or touch with our fingers. Billy Graham points out that he has never seen the wind. We can see and feel the affects or the wind in dirt, leaves and debris flying caught in the wind. He can see the trees roll in the wind. But the wind itself has never been seen. And yet very few people have a problem believing in the wind. The idea of not believing in the wind is so absurd that the non-believer may scoff at the comparison, but there is truth in it if they will be honest.
Whether in Heaven or in hell, anyone in either place will know the reality of God and His salvation. The rich man saw Lazarus being comforted after a life of struggle while he was in torment because of his unbelief and dependence on self-sufficiency. Lazarus trusted God and was accepted into eternal life with God. The rich man believed, but too late. The final act of God with regard to hell will be to close it forever, separating the occupants from the presence of God. This may be what makes hell so terrible. Even in this fallen world where man can be so very cruel to his fellow man, there is a barrier of depravity that only a few have crossed. There is a power in the presence of the Holy Spirit that holds back the worst of the potential for evil in this world. On day that presence will be removed and the horrors that will be unleashed should be evidence enough for the souls that remain. To be without that restraining power of God even as a reminder of His presence will be a loss beyond the physical suffering in that place.
The most dreadful words a person can ever hear are those of the Son of God commanding that man or woman to depart from His presence and be consigned to hell. There is no escape, no appeal, and no end to the sentence. If anything should motivate us it should be this thought, that someone we know could be the next to slip into eternity. At that moment the decision for eternity is made. The only question that will matter will not be what church role your name was on, or how much you gave to missions or where you served. The question the Father will ask will be, "What did you do with My Son?" If you can answer that He is your Lord and Savior from sin and death, you will be asked to stand on the right side with the righteous. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ makes us righteous. There is nothing we do that makes a difference. If you have trusted in church membership, or being a good person, or gifts to the poor and instead of Jesus Christ, you will be asked to stand on the left.
I'm sure that some of those on both sides will shock us. The grace of God that reopened the door to Heaven for mankind should amaze us. And the fact than anyone should refuse the free mercy of an omnipotent Creator should break our hearts.
Matt 25:41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (NAS)
Lord Jesus, thank You for reaching out to us with mercy and grace, and giving us the ability to see our need of your salvation offered without cost. Help us to be a light to those around us reflecting your light and echoing your call. Amen.