by Rex Rouis
I saw this portrait the other day, and it made me think, “This man actually lived and died; I wonder what happened to him.”
Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment, so also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him. Hebrews 9:27, 28
This portrait was painted by Jan Verkolje in 1685. Both of these men have now been dead for well over 300 years. They are now spending the very beginning of their eternity in either Heaven or Hell. Heaven is wonderful, and Hell is terrible. There is nothing in between. And both are eternal.
Someday you will also be 300 years into your eternity. Where will you spend it? Remember, eternity is forever, meaning that there is nothing after it. Your condition will never change. Please stop and think about that. This WILL be you someday. Where will you go?
If you don’t know for sure, please pray the following prayer, loud enough that you can hear it:
“Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that you are God of the universe, and Jesus is your Son. I am tired of being my own god and messing up my life. Please forgive me. Help me, I have been disobedient, and I am now sorry for my sins.
I believe that Jesus Christ died for me and paid for my evil deeds. Come now into my heart, live inside of me, and be my personal Lord and Savior. I turn away from evil, and I choose you, your will, and your Life.
I believe with my heart, and I say with my mouth that you, Jesus Christ, are now my Lord and my Savior. I believe you died on the cross for me, and when you were raised again, I was raised with you. I totally commit myself to obeying you every day, for the rest of my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and your power. In Jesus name, it is done! Thank you, Jesus.”
Your Comment * Thank you sir for this article because it’s a great reminder for Christians to remain in the faith
I applaud the desire to get people to understand the absolute centrality of Jesus and faith in Him. I am also very grateful that you did not seek to determine the eternal destiny of the person in the painting. Too often, Christian writers have declared confidently that some recently deceased person is now in hell. This is wrong for so many reasons: – only God can judge and only God will judge, and only God knows the true state of anyone’s soul. We do not know whether someone found faith at the last. So, thank you.
But . . .
Whatever the destiny of the man in the painting and of the painter, I believe that the article makes a profound mistake. As I have stated in another comment, the Bible teaches the bodily resurrection of the dead. The judgement follows this, it does not precede it. As we have not yet seen the return of Christ and the bodily resurrection of the saints and have not yet all stood before God, the judgement has not yet taken place.
So it is wrong to say that they, or anyone else, are already either in heaven or hell and have been for over 300 years. I know this appears to remove assurance, especially as we love to tell the recently bereaved that “Granny [or whoever has died] is now in heaven.” I have few problems with that language, if it is intended to convey that the departed is not lost, but is safe in God’s hands. But it is not an accurate description of our final destiny, nor can it be used to justify the opposite: “We know Granny is in heaven, but old Uncle Bert, he must have gone to . . . the other place.”
I recall a friend asking a Bible Study “Do you know anyone who has gone to hell?” As he knew I was a full time evangelist, he was quite unprepared for my outright rejection of the question. My reaction was to reject a) the possibility that such a thing had already happened – for the reasons given above – and b) even if I were to be convinced that the final judgement is already operative, I would still be deeply concerned at the arrogance that assumes that we could know, with certainty, something that only God knows.
I have known people who apparently lived without Christ, but who left wills asking for a Christian funeral – in one case, I was asked to preside at the funeral. I did so in good conscience because I knew something of the person’s faith history and struggles with intellectual doubt and with mental illness. I knew that he was constantly drawn back to Jesus, whatever his doubts caused him to say or to think. It was not up to me to judge, but to trust in the goodness of God.
(All of the above is quite apart from the fact that the ultimate destiny of the saints – as resurrected persons – is to life on a new earth and not in heaven. Indeed, Revelation tells us that God will come down to earth to dwell with us, not we with him in a disembodied state. While I recognise that Revelation is highly symbolic, it does seem to be clear that all the dead will appear before God for judgement and judgement will then be carried out. This is entirely consonant with what Jesus says and what is found in the epistles and indeed, the book of Daniel.)
Finally, this is a more personal reflection – my opinion, if you will, after 50 years in the faith and 40 plus as an evangelist and teacher. I remember being rocked on my theological heels when someone pointed out that fear is not a great motivator for evangelism and history gives us very few examples of it working – the greatest evangelists spoke, not because Matt 28 told them to, or because they saw masses falling into a lost eternity, but because they had experienced the love of God and reconciliation and wanted to draw others to God. (Matt 28 as a commandment constraining us to engage in evangelism and mission seems to be primarily a 20th century phenomenon – you will look in vain for such a use in the early church, or the reformation era, or even in the 18th century great awakenings/revivals.) It was the love of God that constrained them, not fear.
(The idea of encouraging mission by reference to the great numbers of the lost seems to have begun in the 19th century, but I can’t prove that. I am not suggesting that judgement or hell were not present in the earlier preaching, they certainly were – Whitefield spoke about the second coming and even employed a hidden trumpeter to emphasize his references to the last trump! But the abiding characteristic of the Methodist revival, as seen in its hymnody and its work amongst the poor, was the love of God and the person of Christ.)
I would also argue, that “fear” is not even a good motivator for the hearers in genuine evangelism. People who fear judgement do not necessarily learn to love God. In human relationships, those that are based on fear are not as secure as those based on love. Yes, Scripture does mention judgement, but even in John 3, the emphasis is on love. “God so loved the world . . . ”
Intriguingly, John chose the word “cosmos” precisely to describe the world as a system in rebellion against God – “world” in this sense is the epitome of “sin”. Elsewhere, John tells us to “not love the world” and yet it is precisely this sinful world that God loves and intends to save. Of course, this must mean that there is something to be saved from – nevertheless, the emphasis is on love.
The other article on this site, that I commented on, spoke of wanting to spend eternity with God because of “liking”/”loving” God and not because of any other rewards nor because of fear of any punishments. This seems to be the correct emphasis both for faith and for our witness.
I must admit, however, that I have ministered among people who are often nearer the bottom of society, who have experienced poverty, violence and even deep abuse. They know there is something very wrong with the world and with themselves, they respond easily to a message of a God who loves them and who wants to save them, both from their sin and from the things they have suffered. Perhaps, the situation is different among the well off and complacent? I note that Jesus’ harshest words concerning judgement were not aimed at the ones labelled “sinners”, but to the hard-hearted and self-righteous.
Lots of error in this reply. I became a believer @ age 24 and now over 50 years as a believer in Christ.
Look @ William Branhams Life and the huge amount of fruit her bore for the Kingdom.
Yes “The Road is Narrow and The Way is Hard” but it is “The GRACE of GOD” that Gets You There.
You wanna text more concerning the errors I see in your approach. I will respond.
This is absolutely one of the best websites on Christianity I have seen in 52 years of being A believer in Christ.
Hi, I have been a Christian since age 14 and for over 52 years, although I don’t see what that has to do with the issue at hand.
You mention lots of errors, but don’t actually point to any specific ones. In my original comment, I tried to respond to the original article in some detail and with specific comments. I don’t remember referring to William Branham and his ministry, fruitful or not, at all and I have just re-read my comments. My main point was, only God gets to judge, so no matter what anyone says or thinks, no one can or should say that “X has been in hell for 300 years”. When did God tell them that? Where did anything I said contradict the grace of God? My whole point is “God is gracious and we can’t dictate or predict who he will be gracious to.”
If you believe that any of us can pronounce judgement ahead of God’s own verdict, then it’s not me you have an issue with.
Secondly, my argument is clearly based on Scripture – Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection and we are intended to live as resurrected on the new earth that Revelation describes. Some Christians may disagree and politely agree to disagree about whether the dead are conscious between their bodily death and their resurrection, but resurrection is the Church’s historical doctrine, not some ghostly, disembodied, existence.
Even if the author of the article disagrees with me, the fact that there is disagreement means we should not be too hasty to make claims. I will admit that the original comment is, perhaps, more firmly put than I now state. So you can add the words “I believe that the Bible says . . .” if it helps.
I mean no offence, but next time you accuse someone of “many errors” do them the courtesy of at least telling them something more specific about their errors, as I tried to do in my comment. Christians are supposed to correct one another, not simply accuse one another. Personally, it doesn’t matter much as I wrote the original comment a long time ago and no one else has commented. I am replying as a courtesy to you, but will probably unsubscribe as soon as I can afterwards.
Buddhists don’t believe in Jesus. Does this mean that the 488 million Buddhists in the world will all go to hell after death ?
I am sorry to say yes, I believe so. Who you believe in makes a world of difference. Believing is an awesome responsibility. Rex
Glad to see you are still here Rex.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what this means.
John 3:18 says he who believes in Me is NOT condemned. But he does NOT believe in me is condemned ALREADY!
I did not say this!
Keep em coming.
The bible says the God has put this intuitive knowledge into every man, this knowledge to “KNOW HIM”. There comes a time into everyone’s heart to make a conscious decision to “KNOW HIM”. During those times of God’s Holy Spirit awakening our spirit man, He is presenting and offering Himself to us to “KNOW HIM”. The man in this painting and the man who painted him, as you have said Rex, are in eternity now. At some point in their lives there came a time where this intuitive knowledge of God became apparent in their lives of having to make this conscious and eternal decision of “KNOWING HIM”. As you have mentioned “it is appointed unto man once to die and after this judgement”.
Your site and the information you offer here really paint the same picture(s) – of making decisions, eternal decisions. You present the surety found in God’s Word the promises to all who will believe. These promises found in God’s Word that you present you have first believed and made your own. It is this belief in God and His Word that enables you to write with such confidence of what He is willing and able to do – what He has already done. The truth found in God’s word, proclaimed, will always have it’s desired affect. It’s His promise to prosper it where it is sent (heard).
What a wonderful time of year to make apparent all that God offers through this commitment to Him – eternal life. “…and this life is in the Son, he that hath the Son hath life…”.
Have a blessed and wonderful Resurrection Sunday!
Andrew – This is wonderful. And so well written. Thank you so much for this. God is really speaking through you Andrew. You also gave me the idea for another article, something like – “The Eternal Decisions We Don’t Realize We Make Every Day.” God bless you. Rex