“WOE UNTO THEE!”
1. This morning I am bringing a very serious message on a profoundly important topic; the eternal destiny of almost everyone you know, and very possibly you yourself. I speak, of course, about the endless punishment of the damned.
2. Before this morning’s sermon an exposition. Please note that I will make no attempt to sensationalize or dramatize the truth. Not that dramatizing or sensationalizing is wrong; I do it all the time when preaching. But the subject before us today is of such a serious nature that dramatizing and sensationalizing is unnecessary.
3. What will happen to you when you die? Where will you go? How long will you be there? What will it be like for you there? These are questions rational people ask and seek answers to. These are issues that require your personal attention.
1A. First, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU WHEN YOU DIE?
1B. When you die you will enter eternity. Eternity is that realm of existence outside the boundaries of time. Eternity is where forever is. It is the place of never ending. Where you are now is in time, where children are born, grow to adulthood most of the time, and then eventually die.
2B. In eternity people are not born and no one dies. In eternity no one grows old; that is something that only happens here, in time. In eternity there are no mothers and fathers, no brothers and sisters, no aunts and uncles.
3B. When you die and your body is buried or cremated you do not cease to exist. Some people are very mistaken, thinking that when you die everything ends, but that is not true. When you die your physical body and your eternal soul (which is really the forever part of you) are separated. You, your soul, enters timeless eternity where it never grows old and cannot die.
4B. So, when you die, either as an old person or as the young victim of a crime, accident or disease, you do continue on. It is just that you continue on differently than you are used to. And you will continue on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever, without end.
2A. Next, WHERE WILL YOU GO WHEN YOU ENTER ETERNITY?
1B. How important it is to know where you are going. So many people have no idea where they are going when they die, and have this crazy notion that if they do not think about where they are going, or if they assume everything will turn out all right, that it will turn out all right. Those of us who have read the Bible know differently.
2B. If you are like most people, you will go to Hell when you die. If you are like almost everyone who has ever lived, you will go to Hell when you die. If you live your life in the same general fashion people in this world live their lives, you will go to Hell when you die. Even if you are an extremely religious person who spends incredible amounts of time and energy fulfilling religious duties and obligations, you will almost certainly go to Hell when you die.
3B. I say this because the Lord Jesus Christ indicated very clearly that most people will go to Hell when they die. In Matthew 7.13, He said, “. . . broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” In other words, most people travel the broad way that leads to endless punishment, and endless punishment begins in Hell.
4B. The question is, Where will you go when you enter eternity? The simple answer is, You will go to Hell, since that is where most people go. But Hell is only the first place people go when they die without Christ. The Lord Jesus, Himself, provided definitive proof of this frightening reality in Luke 16.19-23:
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes . . . .
5B. But though Hell is the simple answer to where most people go when they die, it is not the complete answer. It is like a child asking his momma where he came from. “Mommy’s tummy” is the simple answer, but it is not the complete answer to that child’s question. So it is with Hell. Most people go to Hell when they die. All who are unconverted go to Hell they die, but Hell is not the only place the unconverted go.
6B. Keeping in mind what Hebrews 9.22 says (“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”); it should be observed that there is no judgment bar associated with Hell. If you want to draw comparisons, Hell is somewhat like our county jail, where the guilty are imprisoned until they are judged.
7B. You see, after the unconverted have all died and gone to Hell, they will then be raised up for this time of judgment Hebrews 9.22 refers to. The judgment is called the Great White Throne judgment, and it will take place at the very end of time. Turn to Revelation 20.11, where we will begin reading about this future event when those who have died and have gone to Hell will be judged:
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
8B. So you see, the Great White Throne judgment will not take place in Hell. Those of you in Hell will be taken up from Hell to be judged at this judgment, after which you will go to your ultimate destination, the lake of fire.
9B. So, when someone asks, “Where will I go when I die and enter eternity?” there are several answers, each correct, each honest and forthright, and each depending upon the maturity and sophistication of the person asking the question.
1C. To most people who ask the answer is, “You will go to Hell if you are not a Christian.” And this is absolutely true.
2C. To those who are mature and who want a short answer, I would say, “When you die without Christ you will enter the eternal state and begin to suffer endless punishment.”
3C. But to those who are ready to hear it, who want to know specifics and details, I would say, “When you die without Christ you will enter eternity and endless punishment. Your endless punishment will begin with Hell, the temporary abode of the damned. After Hell you will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment. After that you will be cast into the lake of fire, a place God created for the devil and his angels, but the place God has chosen to be your eternal chamber of horrors, agony and punishment.”
3A. The Final Question To Ask As A Prelude To This Morning’s Sermon, WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE THERE FOR YOU?
Of course, Hell, the Great White Throne, and the lake of fire are all different in that they are different places and serve different ends. But there are some distinguishing characteristics that we can quickly point out this morning:
1B. Concerning Hell, there are several things we know from Scripture:
1C. First, it is a place of consciousness and perception. The rich man is seen to be self-aware and capable of intelligent thought in Luke 16. He is also able to communicate with those who are not where he is at, since he was able to communicate with Abraham.
2C. But Hell is a place of torture. The rich man did say to father Abraham, “I am tormented in this flame.” The rich man is in agony, as are all who are in Hell at this moment.
2B. Concerning the Great White Throne judgment:
1C. It will be a time of guilt and shame, since every sin you have ever committed will be rehearsed for all to hear as the record of your life is read.
2C. It will be a time of great dread and fear, since this is the judgment men unsuccessfully attempt to avoid.
3C. And I suspect that this will be a time of nakedness and exposure, since Revelation 16.15 speaks of nakedness being the cause of seeing someone’s shame, and because Hebrews 4.13 informs us that “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
3B. Finally, terminally, there is the lake of fire.
1C. Unlike Hell, the label the lake of fire is completely self-descriptive. It is a lake of fire, the place of God’s hot wrath.
2C. It is also the place that the Lord Jesus Christ referred to on three different occasions as the place of outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Its chief characteristic will be, for you, unimaginable pain.
1. This is a subject that is neither delightful nor entertaining. But it is a necessary topic for consideration, since any presentation of the gospel, which deals with salvation, must address what the sinner is saved from; sins and then the punishment of those sins.
2. Do you know Jesus Christ as your savior? Have you repented of your sins and embraced this Savior Who commands you to come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing? If you die without being reconciled to God through His Son Jesus Christ, you will remain unreconciled to God throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity, subject to His wrath, suffering His punishment.
3. Brother Isenberger comes at this time to lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon.
1. The socialist mentality, with its labor unionism and egalitarian insistence on treating everyone the same, has crept into every corner of Christianity. The Japanese used to refer to trade unionism as “the British Disease,” because of the effect labor unions had of destroying the British economy by their demands that everyone be paid the same, everyone do the same about of work, and the contractual obligations that management treat everyone the same.
2. My friends, there is no basis for treating everyone the same, either in the Bible or in nature. We are each unique and individual, with our own capabilities, capacities, and needs. To be sure, we have things in common. Each person is sinful and needs a Savior. Each person who dies without a Savior will go to Hell, and then the Great White Throne for judgment, and then the lake of fire.
3. But God does not treat you and me the same, and there is no requirement in the Bible for treating each other the same. How many husbands here in our auditorium treat other women the same way you treat your wife? That would be suicide. How many parents treat their various children the same, or treat other children the way you treat your own kids? No right thinking mom or dad does.
4. In Matthew 20.1-16, the Lord Jesus Christ taught a parable about the kingdom of heaven. In that parable He used the illustration of a man hiring different men, at different times, requiring different amounts of work from them, and arguing against the protests of some workers at the end of the day that they all be treated equally.
5. The point? Each boss has the right to negotiate and hire each individual who works for him, and it is no one’s business what the compensation of the guy next to him is. This passage in the Bible makes trade unionism problematic.
6. But do not stop there. The whole point of the parable has to do with the fact that the kingdom of heaven is very much like that illustration. And this is no surprise to any Christian, because one of the first things a Christian learns after getting into church is that once he gets to heaven he will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at the judgment seat of Christ.
7. There, different Christians, who were given different spiritual gifts, different ministry opportunities, and different measures of God’s grace in their Christian lives, will also be given different rewards by the Savior. And all of this goes back to the fact that in this lifetime, Christians are not treated the same as each other by God.
8. In Romans 12.3, Paul wrote, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” And in Ephesians 4.7, Paul wrote, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Different amounts to different Christians.
9. So, no one is treated the same as anyone else in this lifetime. We each have our different skills, abilities, backgrounds, etc. Once a sinner gets saved he is treated by God differently than all other Christians. And when a Christian goes to heaven he will be judged and treated differently than all other Christians.
10. So, why is it that no one ever thinks about how differently God will treat unsaved people when you die? Have you ever given any thought to how severe or less severe, how severe or more severe, it will be for you than for someone else when you are suffering endless punishment? It is something you need to think about.
11. Turn to Matthew 11.20-24, my text for today. When you find that passage, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
12. A very simple message, but with profound implications for you here today who are not converted:
1A. Notice, First, WHO JESUS BEGAN TO UPBRAID
1B. “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done,” verse 20. And in verse 21, we read, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!” In verse 23 we read, “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell.”
2B. The Greek word translated “upbraid” in verse 20 is the word oneidizein. It is a very strong word that means “to reproach or to revile.” Thus, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, the Son of the living God, is not the effeminate religious figure usually portrayed by Hollywood or imagined by religious liberals. The Lord Jesus Christ is very strongly rebuking the inhabitants of these three cities located not too far from each other on the north side of the sea of Galilee.
3B. But besides the names of these cities, who were these people Jesus began to upbraid? Capernaum was the city the Lord Jesus Christ chose to live in for most of His earthly ministry. So the people in Capernaum were singularly blessed by His presence, by His continual teaching and preaching, and by His miracles performed again and again in and around them day after day. Being very close by, the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida had very similar experiences.
4B. Imagine being there at the time, or in the near vicinity to hear about, the Lord Jesus Christ raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, healing Simon’s Peter’s sick mother, walking on the water, and feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fishes. As well, the great sermon on the mount, delivered a couple of hundred yards west of Capernaum and a few more hundred yards south of Chorazin.
5B. My friends, does God treat people the same? No. The people in those cities were astoundingly blessed, in that they heard with their own ears and saw with their own eyes. As no others alive anywhere in the world had opportunity to see and hear, they were given opportunity to see, to behold, to understand, and to be saved.
2A. Next, Notice WHY JESUS UPBRAIDED THEM
1B. Look at the end of verse 20: “. . . because they repented not.” They saw, they heard, they experienced, but they did nothing. Nothing.
2B. Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save sinners from their sins. He said Himself that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. So His very presence in their midst was an indication of their peril. The fact that He walked among them was an indication of their great danger.
3B. Yet they did nothing. Their lives continued on pretty much as they had before He arrived on the scene. So you see, my Lord’s reason for upbraiding them was their failure to respond to Him, their unwillingness to come to Him for salvation. But that is not all of it.
4B. Why did the Savior not upbraid Caesarea? Why did He not upbraid Jericho? Why did he not upbraid Bethlehem in this fashion? He did not upbraid them for only being unresponsive. He upbraided them for being so unresponsive, for having had such opportunities and yet still being unresponsive. He upbraided them for being exposed to such light, and yet remaining in darkness.
3A. Finally, Notice WHAT HE REVEALED TO THEM
1B. Look at verse 22: “It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.” Considering that Tyre and Sidon were two idolatrous cities of great wickedness, this is an ominous warning. “Worse for us than for them? But they were great sinners, terribly wicked, guilty of all manner of trespasses.”
2B. Now look at what He said to Capernaum, in verse 24: “That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” But Sodom is the city that lent its name to unspeakable practices, offenses those in Capernaum shuddered to think about, much less practice.
3B. Not only did the Lord Jesus Christ declare that future judgment would be worse for Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin than for Sodom, Tyre and Sidon, respectively, but that had they the benefit Christ’s hearers had they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
1. What are we to conclude from this passage? Three things seem very obvious to me:
a. First, the Lord Jesus Christ expects and demands a response to the message sinners hear. Sinners go to Hell, then to the Great White Throne judgment, and then to the lake of fire whether they hear the glorious gospel message or not. Endless punishment is the lot of all who die without Christ. But the Lord Jesus Christ demands that those who hear the gospel respond to it. The people of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida did not respond. To date, you have not responded. Consider their fate.
b. Second, not everyone is so blessed as to hear the truth. Sodom did not. Neither did the people of Tyre and Sidon, though they would have responded to the truth had they heard it. So you see, it is a precious thing, a blessed thing, a praiseworthy thing to be selected by God to hear the truth of the gospel. Do not think it is a common and ordinary thing that you are here today, that you have ears to hear the truth. God has blessed you more than you can imagine by simply bringing you here in His providence.
c. Finally, though all sinners who die without Christ will suffer endless punishment, you who have heard but have not obeyed, you who have been here but have not listened, you who have had the opportunity to respond but have chosen not to, will suffer far greater punishment throughout eternity than those who did not have the opportunities you have squandered.
2. It would seem to me that the course of action you should take is to seek the Lord while He may be found, to somehow and in some way secure the salvation of your eternal and undying soul as quickly as you can.
3. Because you have heard, because you have seen, greater will be your punishment. Far greater will be your torment than those who have never heard.