Now I want you to turn with me to the 14th chapter of the book of Job. Job 14:14: "If a man die, shall he live again?"
When Pepper Martin was the hero of the 1931 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, he was asked what was his greatest ambition in life. And he replied, "To go to heaven."
"If a man die, shall he live again?" Men have asked that question for centuries. They have speculated, they have analyzed, they have thought, they have imagined, they have studied, they have grasped at every shred of evidence which points to the possibilities of a future life. "If a man die, shall he live again?"
The nation during the past few years has been in a controversy over Bridey Murphy. Some of you have been caught up in it. Almost everywhere I go somebody asked me, "What do you think of Bridey Murphy?" Well, I heard about a man who had read a book review on Bridey Murphy and the transmigration of souls. He was helping his wife with the dishes; and he asked his wife, "Does that mean if I die, I will come back to this world in another form?" "Yes, that's what it means," his wife said. "Do you believe if I were to die, for example, I would come back as a worm?" "Sweetheart," she replied, "you are never the same twice."
I heard about a fellow some time ago who was talking to a friend of his; and he said, "Boy, my wife is an angel." The friend said, "You're lucky; my wife is still living."
And so, most everybody has wondered at times about life after death. And you have asked yourself the question many times: If I were to die today, what would happen? What happens at death? What is death? Is there a future life? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell?
I noticed that Mrs. Roosevelt said in her column recently, "It is instinctive to believe in life beyond death." Something down inside all of us tells us that there must be a life after death. Long before Christ, the Egyptians were building elaborate pyramids to their dead and making provisions for life beyond the grave. African chiefs were buried with several wives to give them companionship in the future life. The Norsemen who had never seen a Bible would bury horse and armor with many of their warriors so they might fight in the afterlife. The American Indian was talking about the "happy hunting ground." And it is a universal phenomenon.
I took my work in college in anthropology. We never found a tribe anywhere in the world, never found one tribe, but what believed in life after death. Every man dies. "Shall we meet again?" is an age-old question that comes to us tonight with a thundering impact.
Our scientists talk about the end of the world and the possibility of the destruction of civilization. Just one wrong move by some of our diplomats could plunge us all into eternity by intercontinental missiles and hydrogen bombs. When we read about the death rate on our highways, the death rate by cancer and heart disease, none of us here tonight knows whether or not we are going to be alive tomorrow.
Life is the most uncertain thing in all the world. We never know when our moment is coming. One-fourth of this audience will be dead ten years from now if the law of averages holds out. Ten years from now, in 1968, one out of every four people in this audience will be dead.
Life is weak, life is short. The Bible says that life is as a flower--it fades; it's like the grass--it withers [see Isaiah 40:7,8]. It's like a weaver's shuttle [see Job 7:6]. It is like a shadow--it passes [see Job 8:9]. Life is brief and short. And the question comes: After the days have passed and my life is over, shall I live again? Or if I die, is that the end of it? Is my personality, my soul, my spirit, my intelligence, my conscience, my everything destroyed? And is it all one big black blank? What is the answer?
The materialist says that it is the end, that there is nothing after death. The scientist says that science is organized knowledge, and knowledge is of the things we see. Of the things that are unseen, science knows nothing and has at present no means of knowing anything. So the scientist says, "That is beyond our ability to experiment with. We can only speculate; we can only guess." The agnostic says, "I don't know."
Robert Ingersoll, at the grave of a child, said, "Why should we fear that which will come to all of us? We cannot tell, we do not know which is the greatest blessing, life or death. We cannot say death is not good. We do not know whether the grave is the end of life or the door to another, or whether the life here is not a door to somewhere else." In other words, the agnostic says, "I don't know."
An agnostic was talking to a Christian one day. And he said, "Suppose one minute after death you discover there is no heaven?" The Christian said, "If there is no heaven, it is still worth it because of the joy and peace I have had in my heart in this Christian life."
But I want to ask you something. Mr. Agnostic, suppose--just suppose--you wake up and find there was a hell after all. Suppose there were only one chance in a hundred that there is a hell. Do you concede tonight that there is possibly one chance in a hundred that there is a hell? Then it would be worth giving everything you have got to escape the place that Jesus called hell.
The Bible teaches in both the Old and New Testament that there is life after death. The Bible clearly teaches it. Nobody can pick up the Bible without realizing that the Bible is filled with the teaching concerning life after death. Nobody can study the teachings of Jesus without realizing that He believed and taught life after death. The patriarchs, the psalmist, the prophets all looked into the future. Abraham looked for a city "whose builder and maker [was] God," eternal in the heaven [see Hebrews 11:10]. The Bible says that "Enoch walked with God: and . . . was not; for God took him" [Genesis 5:24]. The Bible tells us Elijah was taken to heaven on a chariot [see 2 Kings 2:11]. The Bible is filled with life after death.
Jesus said in John 14:2 and 3, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself." He said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" [John 11:25,26].
Jesus said it. Was Jesus a liar? If you want to say that Jesus was a liar, all right. If He is a liar on this point, then He is a charlatan and a quack and ought to be dispensed with and forgotten. You have got to make up your mind about Jesus. Either He was what He claimed to be, the Son of the living God, or He is the biggest quack in history. You have got to decide, and everyone in this room has got to decide this vital question about Jesus.
If Jesus is the person He claims to be, the Son of God, the living God who died for our sins on the cross--and only by the shedding of His blood can our sins be forgiven--then I had better come to that cross and give my all to Him. But if Jesus is not who He claims to be, then let us forget Him and wipe Him out of our books because He is a liar. He claimed to be God. He claimed to raise the dead. He claimed to have truth concerning eternal life.
The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, gives almost a whole chapter to this truth. He begins, "For we know that if [this] earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, [a] house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" [verse 1]. Oh, the apostle Paul said the moment you are absent from the body, if you're a Christian, the next moment you're in the presence of God [see verse 8]. Death had no fear and terrors for Paul. He believed in life after death. He believed that he was going into the presence of Christ.
Christ taught there are two ways of life. He said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: . . . wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the [way], and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" [Matthew 7:13,14].
He taught there are two masters. He said, "No man can serve two masters: . . . either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will [love] the one, and despise the other" [Matthew 6:24]. He taught there are two fathers. He said, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the [lust] of your father ye will do" [John 8:44].
There is a sense in which we believe in the fatherhood of God. We are all the sons of God by creation. But because of our sins, we have been separated from God; so that now God would look upon us as in two classes--the children of the devil and the children of God. Jesus made this very plain in John 8:44. I cannot get around that text. There are the saved and the lost. There are those on the broad road, and there are those on the narrow road. There are those who are serving the flesh and the world, and there are those who are serving Christ. There are not three classes, four classes, five classes, six classes. There are only two.
Jesus also made it plain that there are two destinations. There is a place of destruction and judgment, and there is the place which is called heaven.
What is the nature of the life to come? First, what about the sinner, the man who deliberately rejects Christ, the man who neglects Christ all through his life? You have had an opportunity to give your life to Christ. You have had an opportunity for this encounter with the living God. You have had an opportunity to be born again of the Holy Spirit. But you have neglected it. You have put it off. You have rejected it.
The Bible says that because of breaking God's law we are under judgment, and every person here tonight has broken the law of God. You have broken God's law, and I have broken God's law. [See Romans 3:23.] If you have ever failed to keep the Ten Commandments, even at one point, you are guilty of all [see James 2:10]. Because, you see, when God created you, He gave you the ability to choose. You can either choose to live for God and serve God, or you can live any kind of life you want. And there is nothing God can do about it because He gave you that gift.
You do not have to serve God if you do not want to do so. You do not have to go to church if you do not want to do so. You do not have to read your Bible if you do not want to do so. But God said if you choose to live that kind of life, if you choose to live apart from Christ, there is judgment and destruction and hell in the future.
There are many Scripture words that describe hell. It is called in Psalm 11:6 a "horrible tempest." It is called in Psalm 18:5 a place of "sorrows." It is called in Matthew 13:42 a place of "wailing," a place of weeping. It is called in Luke 16:23 a place of torment. Whatever it means, Jesus warned us against going there. And He said, "If [your] eye offend [you], pluck it out" [Matthew 5:29]. I think He meant that literally. Pull your eye out, because it would be better to go through life with no eyes than go to hell.
I have studied this book for twenty years, and I have tried to get around it, and I cannot. I cannot study the teachings of Jesus without believing that men are lost. I only know hell is separation from God. I only know Jesus warned us in no uncertain terms against going to hell. And He used the most terrible language to describe it. I believe that one minute after death those outside of Christ will discover the horrible mistake they have made; and they will say, "My God, my God."
I believe that is where the 1st chapter of Proverbs comes into effect when the Bible says that men shall call upon God, but He will not answer; men will seek God, but they will not find Him [see verse 28]. It's too late. They have already made their choice and decision. I beg of you tonight, give your life to Christ. Don't even take that chance.
The intellect tells you that you cannot believe it. Accept it by faith, and faith moves beyond your intellect. Just take the words of Jesus and say tonight, "I don't understand all about it, but I am giving my life to Christ. I want my sins forgiven. I don't want to go to hell. I don't want to be lost."
The Bible teaches that in hell we are going to be separated from God. You will have your intelligence. The 16th chapter of Luke records the story that Jesus told [verses 19-31]. The man who was in hell had his intelligence. He had his memory. He had his feelings and his sensibilities, and he was begging even for a drop of water.
There are several things that God uses to describe hell. The Bible calls it "the second death" [Revelation 20:14]. God is the source of all life. We will be cut off from God, and it will be death. Death is the absence of life. God will not be there. There will be no life there, no divine life, nothing good, nothing fine, nothing holy.
The Bible uses the word "fire" [Revelation 21:8]. We will be separated from God, and we will have a fire burning in our tongue and in our mouth. We will be burning after God, thirsting after God. Our souls were made for God. We want God, and we thirst for God. We can't find God. He's not there.
The Bible uses the word "light" [John 8:12]. God is the source of all light. He is light, l-i-g-h-t, the source and the author of all light. We will be separated from Him, and it will be dark. And Jesus said it is a place of "outer darkness" [Matthew 8:12].
My friends, I tell you with all the compassion in my heart, give your life to Christ! If there is a doubt in your heart that you are ready to meet God, settle it tonight.
Then the Bible says something about the future of the person that is in Christ, the person that has come to the cross, the person that has come by faith to receive the Savior. The Bible says something about that. The Bible says that Paul was "caught up [into] the third heaven" [2 Corinthians 12:2-4], and it was so glorious he could not even describe it. We are told in Scripture there is a heaven. I heard a man say the other day that he did not know. I know tonight by the eye of faith. I cannot put heaven in my little brain. I cannot understand heaven. I cannot put God in a test tube. I cannot even prove to you in a scientific laboratory that God exists. I can give you a great deal of proof, but not conclusively. I must accept by faith. I accept God's Word by faith, and God's Word teaches there is a heaven.
And we are told a few things about it. We are told there is no more curse there, no more sin, no more death, no more pain, no more sorrow [see Revelation 21:4]. "The gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: [and] there shall be no night there" [Revelation 21:25]. God is the source of all light. There will be no night there--no night of sin.
There won't be any bombings of synagogues. There won't be any bombings of churches. There won't be any of the crime that is gripping our country. There won't be any of these things committed today that are symptomatic, which indicates that something is basically wrong with man that we call sin. The Bible says there will be no night of sin. Sin will be gone. The devil will be bound. "The devil [will be] cast into the lake of fire" [Revelation 20:10], the Bible says. He will exist no longer. You won't even be tempted in heaven. Won't that be wonderful to get away from the devil?
Somebody told me the other day the devil was bound now. I said, "Brother, if he is bound now, I hope he is never turned loose. Because there is something stirring things up mighty bad; and if the devil got here, it would be twenty million times worse." No, he is not bound. You know where the devil is now? The Bible says he is "the prince [and] the power of the air" [Ephesians 2:2]. The Bible tells us the devil is "the god of this [age]" [2 Corinthians 4:4]. The Bible tells us the devil is the prince of this world. The devil and his legions of demons are everywhere. They are tempting you.
You are never tempted of God; God does not tempt anybody [see James 1:13]. God does not tempt you to lie. It is not God who tries to make you get drunk. It is not God who tries to get you to commit immorality. It is not God who puts those evil thoughts in your mind. It is not God who makes you cheat in your business. It is the devil. And the Bible says that in heaven there will be no devil. Won't that be wonderful?
Then there will be no sorrow. Think of it--no death, no suffering. You will be able to walk on those legs perfectly. We'll have wonderful bodies, strong bodies, spiritual bodies. There will be no sorrow. There will be no pain. There will be no suffering. There will be no death. There won't be any hearses. There won't be any graveyards. There won't be any mortuaries. The undertaker will be out of business. It will all be light and glory. The Bible teaches that.
The Bible says, first, it will be a place of righteousness [see 2 Peter 3:13]. Oh, it will be a holy place. And a lot of you people would not enjoy it in heaven--not unless you have been regenerated and have a new nature. Why, with your present old nature, your old sinful nature, you would not enjoy it in heaven. You would get up there, and they would be having a prayer meeting. They would be reading their Bibles. They would be glorifying God all the time. You do not enjoy these things down here; and without a change of nature, heaven would be hell to you. That is the reason Jesus said, "[You] must be born again" [John 3:7]. You must be born again of the Holy Spirit. You must have a new nature. And then when you have a new nature--God's nature--then heaven becomes heaven.
If a lot of you got there, you would soon turn heaven into hell. Why, if we ever get to the moon, and there is anybody living on the moon, we will soon have hell up there. All our wickedness and all our crime and all the things that we do that are wrong, we are going to carry to the other planets. I hope somebody warns them that we are on the way, to get ready. We'll make a hell wherever we go. The trouble with man is not his environment. The trouble with man is the wickedness in his heart. His heart has got to be changed.
Secondly, the Bible says that it is a place of achievement in work, in service. You are not going to just sit down up there. I hope they have a golf course up there. But we're going to work. I believe there is going to be new channels of service. I believe that the Scripture indicates that. What do you think David has been doing since he got there? Or John, since he painted the last picture of the new Jerusalem? What has Paul been doing since the headman's axe flashed in the sun, and he put on immortality?
The Bible says, "His servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be [on] their foreheads" [Revelation 22:3,4]. Oh, we're going to serve Him. There will be new worlds to conquer. There will be a new dimension to living.
Thirdly, it will be a place of joy. The Bible says there was joy in heaven when man was created. "The morning stars sang together, and . . . the sons of God shouted for joy" [Job 38:7]. There is joy in heaven when one person comes to Christ [see Luke 15:7]. Three times the Bible says there is joy in heaven. First, when God created man. Then when one of you comes down this aisle to give your life to Christ, the Bible says that heaven rejoices. Think of it! The angels sing, or chant, or shout; the orchestras play. There is joy in heaven when one person comes to Christ. And do you know, tonight this meeting is being watched by heaven? Think of it! The eyes of heaven are upon this meeting. Perhaps our loved ones who have gone on before--your father, your mother, your grandmother--those that knew Christ are watching this meeting tonight, and they are hoping that you will come and give your life to Christ. They know that you need God, that you need Christ, that you have wasted your life. Oh, you have gone to church, you have lived a decent life; but you have really never experienced Christ.
The Bible says there will be joy in heaven when we all get there to be at Jesus' feet. What a glorious time it is going to be, of singing and shouting and praising God and glorifying Him forever. Such exquisite beauty, such magnificence, such splendor.
So, when Paul tried to explain it, he couldn't. He said, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither [has it] entered into the heart of man, [what] God [has] prepared for them that love him" [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Then the Bible says it is going to be a place of reunion with loved ones. Are we going to know each other in heaven? Why, of course. Moses and Elijah knew each other when they were on the Mount of Transfiguration. One of them had been dead for fourteen years, the other nine hundred years. But they appeared together on the Mount of Transfiguration and had a conference with Jesus. [See Matthew 17:3.] Also, Jesus once said, "Many shall come from the east and [the] west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 8:11]. Of course, we will know each other.
Old friends will be joined together again. What a reunion it is going to be! Husbands that have already gone, and wives that are still here. What a time that is going to be! These old bodies that are wracked with pain and with age are going to have new bodies, a body like the body of the Lord Jesus, and reunited with old friends. However, the family circle is going to be broken because you are outside the family circle. You have never really come to Jesus.
The Bible says it is going to be an eternal place. The glory of Babylon is gone. The glory of New York will someday fade. The glory of Paris will be gone. But there is a city built in the sky, eternal, where you will never fade. [See 2 Corinthians 5:1.] The Bible says there is no night there [see Revelation 21:25]. What a wonderful, glorious world Christ is preparing for us. Are you ready? Do you want to go? Where do you want to go? Do you want to go to the world that was prepared for the devil and his angels that is called hell, or do you want to go to the world that is prepared by Christ for His saints?
Well, I want to tell you, you may laugh at me down here. You may say I am not intellectual. You may say that it is all speculation. Say anything you like, it does not disturb me in the slightest. I have the greatest peace and joy and happiness in my heart because tonight I know where I am going. Like Paul, I can say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed . . . against that day" [2 Timothy 1:12]. John says, "These things [I write] unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that [you] have eternal life" [1 John 5:13]. I know it tonight. There's not a doubt.
You say, "Billy, you mean you don't doubt?" Not a doubt! Not one doubt! I have not had a doubt--I believe I can say this honestly--in at least twelve years. I have accepted it by faith. And the conviction grows every day, as my faith grows, that if I died tonight that I will be in heaven the very next moment.
The Bible says, "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness" [1 Corinthians 1:18]. When I tell you that you have to come to Jesus Christ and give yourself to Him before you can get to heaven and escape hell, you say, "Well, that is foolish." The Bible says it is foolishness to them that are accursed--because your minds are blinded by sin, your conscience is dull, your will is paralyzed by sin.
The Bible talks about death as being sleep--that our bodies are just like a tent, a temporary abode. Paul said, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand" [2 Timothy 4:6]. Literally, he meant the time for the sailing of the ship; at death, the Christians set sail for the heavenly shore. "Oh, think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven, and taking hold of a hand and finding it is God's hand. Of breathing a new air and finding it celestial air." Of feeling invigorated, and finding it immortality. Of passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm, of looking up and down and finding it home. What a moment that is going to be!
The Bible talks about heaven as going--going home. Years ago there was an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. And every night when he would finish his run, he would pull open the whistle and let out a blast just as he came around the curve. Then he said, "I would look up to a small hill where stood a little white cottage. There would be a little old man and a little old woman standing in the doorway. I would lean out of the old cab window, and we would wave at each other. They would wave their white handkerchiefs, and I would wave back. And as my engine would go shooting into the tunnel, the old couple would turn and go back inside. And the little old woman would say to the little old man, 'Thank God, Dad. Benny is safe home tonight.' That happened day after day and month after month and year after year. And I watched the little old couple as they grew older. One day as I pulled around the bend and looked up on the hill, I saw only the little old man. I put my train in the big roundhouse. I went home and found that the little old woman was gone. But every afternoon when I pulled my train in, the little old man would be there waving his handkerchief; and I would wave back. One day I pulled around the bend again, and the little old man was not there. He was gone. When my run on earth is gone, when the last run has been made and I pull the throttle and the whistle for the last time, as I draw near to heaven's gate, I know I shall see the same little old couple waiting there for me. And as I go sweeping through the gates, I will hear my old mother turn to my old father and say, 'Thank God, Dad. Benny is safe home at last.'"
Oh, listen, when you make that landing in the sky, what airport is it going to be?
I remember as clearly as yesterday the night Wendell Willkie died. Wendell Willkie had run for the President of the United States and made a tremendous campaign. Even his enemies admired him. Wendell Willkie, at the very height of his career, when his name was on everybody's lips around the world, had a strep throat. And just as he was dying, holding to his wife's hand, Wendell Willkie said, "All over."
The great Republican Convention where he was elected was over. The mighty campaign was over. Wendell Willkie's great applause was over. The headlines were over. The publicity was over. The money was over. The parties were over. The life was over!
The walls and the locks shall pass away, "but he that doeth the will of God [shall abide] forever" [John 2:17].
How do you go to heaven? Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" [John 14:6]. The Bible says, "There is [no] other name . . . given among men, whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12]. You can't get there except through Christ. The Bible says it's a narrow road--very narrow, Jesus said. "Except [you] repent, [you] shall . . . likewise perish" [Luke 13:3]. Has there ever been a moment in your life when you really turned from sin to God? Has there ever been a moment when you really received Christ into your heart? "[For] as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" [John 1:12].
You must receive Him. When you stand at the entrance of eternity, you're going to be asked for a passport. Everywhere I go in the world I have to carry a little green American passport. I have to pull it out, and I can't get into any country unless I've got that passport. You can't get into heaven unless your passport is in order, unless it has been stamped by Christ. Is your passport in order? Has it been stamped?
I want to tell you, if I didn't know tonight that my sins were forgiven, if I didn't know I was in Christ, you couldn't drag me out of this coliseum until I had settled it. And if you have a doubt about it, don't you leave here until you have settled it.
You may be from Winston-Salem. You may be from out of town. You may be in a delegation; you may be with friends. You may be a member of a church; you may not be a member of any church. You may be a Sunday school teacher, and you might be the worst heathen in town. I don't care who you are or what you are. Don't you leave here with a doubt about this business tonight.
You come, because the Bible said, "My Spirit [will] not always strive with man" [Genesis 6:3]. The Bible says, "He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy" [see Proverbs 29:1]. Come and give your life to Christ now while there is time.