Was Man Created For Time Or Eternity

Bible Book: Job  14 : 14
Subject: Life; Death; Eternity

The Bible is full of questions. The first question is recorded in Genesis 3:9. Adam had sinned, and because of the shame and guilt of his sin, he hid himself from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Bible says, "The Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, 'Where art thou?'" That is the first question in the Bible.

Do you remember when God called Moses to be the deliverer of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt? Moses was tending sheep on the backside of the desert. God appeared to him in a burning bush and asked him a question. He said to Moses, "What is that in thine hand?" (Exodus 4:2). And then I remember when Samuel went to the house of Jesse to select, under the direction of God's Spirit, one of Jesse's seven sons to anoint as the next king over Israel. Samuel interviewed six of Jesse's sons and realized that not a one of them was God's choice. And so he asked the question of Jesse, "Are here all thy children?" (I Samuel 17:11). Of course, after that question was asked, David stepped on the scene.

Then I think about the question that the psalmist asks in Psalm 24. He asks, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?" Good questions; questions that deserve   an honest answer. And then I think about the question of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17. The Bible says that he came running to Jesus and asked him, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Indeed, the Bible is full of questions. But it is also full of answers. And the preacher who preaches on the great questions of the Bible and gives not his own answers, but the answers of the Scriptures will touch on all the major issues of life.

One of man's greatest and most earnest questions are found in our text. "If a man dies, shall he live again?" Since Job is the oldest book in the Bible, this is probably one of the oldest questions ever asked, a question that has crossed everyone's mind. Indeed, it is a great question that deserves an honest answer. As we look at our text, there are three things that we see. The first thing that we notice is,

I. A Certainty

Notice what the text says. "If a man die...." Please understand that he is not questioning the certainty of death. He is not questioning the reality of death. He is posing a hypothetical question. Death is a certainty. In II Samuel 14:14, the Bible says, "we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." In Job 16:22, Job said, "When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return." In Ecclesiastes 9:5, the Bible says, "For the living know that they shall die...." In Jeremiah 16:6, the Bible says, "Both the great and the small shall die...." In I Corinthians 15:22, the Bible says, "For as in Adam all die...." In Hebrews 9:27, the Bible says, "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." In Psalm 89:48, the Bible says, "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?" In Job 14:1-2, the Bible says, "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." Someone has said that there is nothing certain in this world except death, taxes and teenagers. Death is a certainty.

In 1926 Johnny Sylvester got kicked in the head by a horse. The wound on his forehead got badly infected. Doctors told his parents the sad news that Johnny would die. Johnny said to his parents, "I wish I could see Babe Ruth wallop a homer before I die." So they sent a telegram to the great slugger of the New York Yankees, and Babe Ruth sent an answer. He would hit a home run for Johnny in the next game. Johnny Sylvester instantly became one of the most famous boys in baseball history. Did Babe Ruth slug one for Johnny? Yes. In fact, he hit three home runs in that game. And to top it all off, he visited Johnny in the hospital. Were the doctors right? Did Johnny die? Yes, they were right. Johnny Sylvester did die, but not until he was 74. He died. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.

One day last week I was reading the obituary column of the newspaper. I don't usually do that. But I read in there about the death of Dorothea Washburne Stedgeman who died at 104 years of age. Her funeral was this past week in Athens, Georgia. But I want you to know that in that same paper I read about the death of Leigh Ann Simpson who died at 25 years of age. And Wendy Goodroe Johnson who died at 25 years of age. History is filled with dramatic illustrations of the frailty of life, and the unexpectedness with which the summons of death may come.

I remember the evening of November 14, 1970. It was rainy, and the fog had enshrouded the mountains of West Virginia. The chill of the autumn evening provided for a bleak, foreboding, and eerie night. Out of the east a Southern Airways DC-9 hurled itself like a silver spear. In the rain and mist and clouds, the silver missile cut its way through the dismal night. She was late because the weather was bad, and she was cautious. Better late than never! Men and women and college students waited at the Huntington, West Virginia, air terminal - impatient. They were anxious for the plane to land. They wanted to welcome the weary passengers from their somber flight. The DC-9 started its descent. The tower cleared the runway for the landing of the special chartered flight. The approach was being made...almost home. There were 75 human beings aboard. Thirty-six of the passengers were members of the Marshall University football team. They were returning from a trip to Greenville, North Carolina, where they had played the East Carolina Pirates in a gridiron contest that afternoon. They were accompanied by five coaches, a trainer, and a number of ardent fans. This giant silver bird bore its payload of strong young athletes and coaches and cheerleaders toward the landing site. On the ground newsmen and photographers loitered with university students and   airport crewmen. It was 8:35. There was a faint glimpse of a tree, then the ground. The runway was not in view. A miscalculation. The pilot struggled frantically at the controls. And in less time than it takes to tell, the plane plowed into the mountain one and one-half miles short of the runway. Flames leaped from her fuselage - flames of red and yellow wrapped in black and purple smoke. There were shouts and screams at the first instant, and then the appearance of young men and women like flaming torches glowing in the indifferent rain. Seventy-five people died in an instant. At the last there was a feeble flame. It crawled skyward and lost itself in the blackness of the night. Yes, life is a vapor, which disappears; slips from our grasp all in an instant.

Most of us never think of death or dying. We act as though we have a long lease on life; as though we have immunity somehow. We do not care to contemplate the time when these hands of ours shall be pulseless and cold and motionless, as the grave wherein they must lie. When our eyes are closed in death; when the casket is lowered into the earth; when the closed, sealed sepulcher is our only home, how unpleasant is the thought of death. It is a certainty, but is it the end? Let us move from the consideration of a certainty to considering,

II. A Mystery

Is death the end? Would God love you into existence, hold your hand across the grim pilgrimage of earth until you come to a greedy, muddy ditch called the grave, only to see you fall in and then turn His back upon you forever? I mean, have you ever laid down on your back on the front lawn on a spring day and looked up into the heavens, and looked at the blue sky and seen the white cumulous clouds pass by and just wonder, "Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my destiny? Surely there's more to life than the brief span of existence that we live here on this earth." Well, let's listen to what some folks would say.

Listen to the answer of the materialist. His reply is quick and short. He says, "There is no life after death. The sum total of man is flesh, bone and blood. After death man goes nowhere. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. The soul is but a function of the brain." The second answer comes from the scientist who comes to the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The scientist's lips are sealed. He has no answer. You see, science is "organized knowledge," and knowledge is "of things seen." But the Bible says, "the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18). The scientist has no scientific way of proving life after death, since there is no way to test and experiment. The scientist can deal only with those things he can taste, touch, hear, see and smell - the things having to do with the five senses. So when the scientist tells me where I came from or where I am going, he is completely out of his field. The third answer comes from the agnostic. That is a word invented by Thomas Huxley. It is a transliteration of the Greek word that means "unknown." The agnostic does not say for sure that there is not life after death. He simply indicates that we cannot know. And he's right if you leave out divine revelation; if you leave out the word of God. The next answer comes from the Epicureans. The Epicureans are the playboys. They are the ones whose philosophy is "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die, and that's the end." They would say something like this: "If you have seen the world, if you have played your game and won it, what more would you ask for? If you have tasted the sweets of existence, you should be satisfied. If the experience has been bitter, you should be glad that it comes to an end." The next answer comes from many of the eastern religions. They believe that eternal life is the life that you live through succeeding generations. They say that a man is united with a woman, engenders children, cares for them, grows old and dies. His children grow up and his life continues in them. And his life is passed on from one generation to another without interruption like everything else in the world. They say that life is the life that we live here on this earth, and we just simply need to make the best of it, and try to insure its continuation through succeeding generations. And then, of course, there is the answer of logic. Logic would ask this question. Would God love you into existence, hold your hand across the grim pilgrimage of earth until you came to a greedy, muddy ditch called the grave, only to see you fall in and then turn His back upon you forever? Logic would say that there must be more to life than birth, three score and ten struggling years, and a cold damp grave. And logic may not be able to prove that there is life after death the way a chemist can prove that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. But logic could give you an illustration depicting why there must be some existence beyond the grave.

Consider this illustration from the philosophy of reason. You know about Leonardo da Vinci. His paintings are world-renowned. His portrait of a young woman is in the collection of Prince Franz Joseph the Second of Liechtenstein. In 1965 the prince refused to sell that da Vinci painting for a reported $6 million. Can you imagine Leonardo da Vinci painting a picture as beautiful as human hands can make, working until every muscle of his back must have ached and until his eyes must have smarted from looking so steadily at his work, only to have someone look at it for a few moments, and then taking it back and destroying it with a pin knife. That doesn't make sense. And logic would conclude that it does not make sense to think that God would go to all the trouble to create a human personality, a human soul, and then after a few short years take it back to smash it forever against the workbench of the universe. Is that the kind of God that Jesus taught us to believe? But, folks, the issue here is not what the materialist says, nor what the scientist says, nor what the agnostic says, nor what the annihilationist says, nor what the Epicurean says, nor what the logician says, but what does God say? "If a man die, shall he live again?"

This question is asked in the book of Job. And the answer is provided in the same book, because in Job 19:25-27 we find these words: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.... " And listen to the words of II Timothy 1:10. The apostle Paul says, "...our Savior Jesus Christ...hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." And in I Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul says, "Behold, I will show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality...." So if you believe the Bible, you believe that one day the mystery will be removed; that one day faith will become sight; that though we see through a glass darkly now, that one day we will see face to face, and that there is an eternity that awaits all of us. So we move from a certainty, and we move from a mystery to consider...

IIII. An Eternity

I was going though one of my old philosophy of religion books; one of the books that I had at Mercer University years ago. And in this book I came across this quote. The writer said, "I might almost say that all men and women would readily submit themselves to the teeth of Cerberus (in Greek and Roman mythology Cerberus was the three-headed dog guarding the gate of Hades) and to the punishment of carrying water in a sieve if only they might remain in existence and escape the doom of annihilation."

Well, folks, I want you to know when you submit yourself to the teeth of Cerberus, you're going to escape the doom of annihilation, and there is an eternal destiny that awaits you. Those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will cross the Jordan, the river of death, and step onto the shores of heaven, because the Bible says, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." But the key to getting to heaven; the key to entering into His presence is knowing Jesus Christ, having accepted Him as your Savior, committing your life to Him.

The story is told of Fred arriving at the pearly gates where there was hardly any line, and he didn't have to wait more than a minute before his interview. Naturally, he was a little nervous about getting through the gates and into the heavenly city. Very quickly he found himself standing before an impressive angelic being with a clipboard who started getting his entry data down. After name, address and a few other particulars, the angelic being said, "Fred, it would help the process if you could share with me some experience from your life on earth where you did a purely unselfish, kindly deed." Well, Fred thought for about a minute and said, "O, yes. I think I have something you might be interested in. One day I was walking along and I came upon a little old lady who was being mercilessly beaten up by a huge motorcycle gang type of fellow. He was smacking her back and forth. Well, I just stepped right up, and I first pushed over his motorcycle - just to distract his attention. And then I kicked him real hard in the chins and told the old lady to run for help. And then I hauled off and gave the guy a great shot right to the gut with my fist." The angelic being looked at Fred with a great deal of interest and said, "Wow, that's quite a story. I'm very impressed. Could you tell me just when this happened?" Fred looked at his watch and said, "O, about two or three minutes ago."

But the point is, you don't get to heaven by helping little old ladies. And you don't get to heaven by doing good deeds. The Bible says that all of our righteousness, all of our good deeds, is as filthy rags in the sight of God. And it is "not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by his grace that he has saved us." And those who get to heaven will get to heaven because they have trusted in the atoning death of Jesus Christ.

But there is another destiny. Not only do believers live for eternity, but unbelievers live for eternity as well. Now, I wish I could end the message here. I've almost argued with the Lord about this message, because I don't want to preach the dark side of it. And I first thought that I'd preach heaven last so it would leave a good taste in your mouth, but the Lord wouldn't let me do that either. And so I've got to preach the other side of this thing. And although everyone is living for all of eternity, not everyone is going to heaven. Some are going to hell. And I warn you against this awful place with the fervor of a friend warning you of a rattlesnake in the coil. I warn you against hell as I would warn you of a pestilence leaving a trail of death in its wake. I warn you against hell as I would warn you of   polluted water that would poison and kill. I warn you against hell as I would warn you against a dreadful plague with ominous consequences. I tell you that the preacher who does not preach on hell does not preach as Jesus Christ preached. Jesus had more to say about hell than He had to say about heaven. And I know that the idea of hell is laughed at today. I have a firm conviction that if the Supreme Court could legislate on it, they would declare that hell is cruel and unusual punishment. And they would say, "There should be no place called hell," for the Bible says in Proverbs 28:5: "Evil men understand not judgment." They do not understand that our God is a God of wrath as well as a God of love. I tell you, my problem has never been: "How can a loving God send any man to hell?" My problem is: "How can a just God send a man to heaven?" You say, "Brother Harris, do you believe what the Bible teaches about hell to be figurative or literal?" Well, I'll tell you the way I figured it out. I'm going to preach it literally the way God wrote it. And if I get to heaven and I'm wrong, I had rather have the Lord say, "Gerald, you took my word too seriously" than to have Him say, "Gerald, you should never have watered down what I put in my Book." I'm like the country preacher who said, "If God didn't mean what He said, why didn't He say what He meant?" O, listen. I do not like to preach on hell. I confess it. But I know I must, for I am compelled to preach the whole counsel of God.

Now, the Bible indicates that those who go to hell will stay there for all eternity. Hell is described as a place where "the fire is not quenched, and the worm dieth not." Now, what is hell going to be like?

Well, I want to say this. It is going to be a place of vile association. Have you ever heard anybody say, "Well, if I go to hell I'll have plenty of company." Have you ever heard them say that? Well, they will.

Who is going to be there? Well, they'll have company with the devil. Look, if you will, in Revelation 20:10 (read). Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. Satan will be there. He is not there yet. People talk about the devil in hell. The devil is not in hell. He is going to be put into hell. And when he's put into hell, he'll be given a one-way ticket, and he will not be the lord of hell. He will not be wearing a suit of red underwear, and will not have a pitchfork sticking people and making them shovel coal. Don't you get that idea? He'll be tormented day and night. The fallen angels will be there. The Bible says in II Peter 2:4, "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." Ungodly men will be there. Look in Revelation 21:8 (read). You say, "Well, I may be bad, but I'm not as bad as those folks." Did you read who is number one on the list? The fearful and unbelieving. Friend, the person who does not believe in Jesus Christ, and does not have the courage to confess Jesus Christ, is number one on the list in the roll call of the damned. You see, unbelief is a worse sin than adultery. Unbelief is a worse sin than murder or lying. It is the mother sin; it is the parent sin. The Holy Spirit has come into this world of sin because they believe not. Unbelief says, "Thou liest, O God." And tonight don't take comfort in the fact that you're not a murderer or a pervert. Unbelief is the worst sin. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Yes, you will have plenty of company. The devil will be there. The beast will be there. The false prophet will be there. The fallen angels will be there. Every vile, lascivious person who has ever lived will be there. The hypocrites will be there.  O, you say, "I don't want to be a Christian. There are too many hypocrites in the church." Well then, spend eternity in hell with them. Yes, you'll have plenty of company, for hell is a place of vile association. And conversely, hell is going to be a place of separation from all of God's saints. Look at Luke 13:28 (read).

Maybe you're not saved and your mother is saved. You're going to see your mother in heaven, and you cast out. Maybe you're saved, but your children are not saved. Your children are going to see you in heaven, and themselves cast out. Maybe your children are saved and you're not saved. You say, "Brother Harris, I don't see how they could be happy in heaven without me." Well, that's where you're dead wrong. They'll be perfectly happy in heaven without you. As a matter of fact, if you continue on without the Lord Jesus Christ, when you're cast into hell, your godly mother who is a Christian will pronounce a solemn curse upon your head as you sink into hell. And your little children who prayed for you and wept for you and witnessed for you will say a righteous "amen" when they will see you with their glorified resurrected eyes; when they've been made like unto their Savior. It will be perfectly right to them that you who spurned the blood of Jesus and the love of Christ should be eternally separated. I tell you, there is coming a time when there is going to be a separation. Hell is going to be a place of ungodly association. And hell is going to be a place of separation from the saints.

Then, it's going to be a place of eternal darkness. 2 Peter 2:4 speaks of the angels being delivered into chains of darkness. The Bible says in Matthew 8:12: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Can you imagine what it would be like to be plunged into darkness forever?

The story is told of a little boy who had a terminal sickness. He knew that he must die. He did not understand the Bible teaching that at death the soul is separated from the body, and he was afraid of the darkness. On his deathbed, with his dying breath, he made his daddy promise that he would put a window in his grave to let the sunlight in. You can visit the cemetery, and there on that grave is windows to let the rays of the sun come down and touch that coffin. I tell you, my friend, if you die without Jesus Christ, willfully, knowingly, deliberately rejecting Jesus Christ, you will go where no light will ever penetrate again. Never to see the twinkle of a star. Never to see the glow of the moon. Never to feel a sunbeam upon your face. The Bible calls it eternal darkness.

Then the Bible calls it a place of memory. In Luke 16:25 a man in hell was given this admonition: "Son, remember." In America there are more than a half million people a year who try to commit suicide. Most of them want to forget, trying to escape the pangs and torments of their conscience. If you go to hell, you will remember the songs of this choir. If you go to hell, you will remember the music of this hour. If you go to hell, you will remember this sermon and the invitation that we're going to give in a moment. If you go to hell, you will remember Gerald Harris standing up here begging you to come to Jesus. You will remember that you had an opportunity to be saved; that God was so good to you; that God put you in a beautiful auditorium on a cushioned seat and let a man get up with the Word of God and tell you about Jesus Christ. Hell will be a place of memory. Hell will also be a place of eternal death. Ever dying, yet never dying. Separation from God.

The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that if you die without the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord." You see, one of the hellish things about hell is that you will never see the face of God. You will never know the joy that I know right now, having the Lord Jesus in my heart. O, how I love Jesus and how I want you to love Him, and how I want your eternity to be spent in heaven with God. Amen