MESSAGE DELIVERED: AUGUST 21, 2016
At the very first church I ever pastored, not long after being hired, a woman came up to me after service one day, and handed me a list. When I asked her what it was for, she said, “This is what I want you to preach on for the next couple of weeks! After you address these subjects, I’ll give you some more.”
And she was serious! And I was very young and eager to please. And as I have told you, finding a couple hundred different topics for sermon subjects each year is a difficult task, as any full-time preacher will tell you!
But somehow I had the good sense and the good grace to give her list back to her, and tell her that I appreciated the offer, but I thought it best to let the Holy Spirit guide me in that area!
And I still think that is the very best way to establish sermon topics. But sometimes the Holy Spirit will use YOU, the members of the congregation, to give me those topics! A while ago, a lady asked me if I would consider speaking on the subject of “destiny”. And shortly after that, someone else said to me: it’s been quite a while since you spoke on “prophecy”.
Well, do you want to know something? Those two topics…destiny, and prophecy, are exactly the same thing! My Funk & Wagnalls Standard Collegiate Dictionary…which I couldn’t get along without, defines “destiny” as: The pre-ordained or pre-determined sequence of events. “Prophecy” is simply telling us about that pre-ordained sequence before it occurs!
So I thought we’d look at the destiny of man today, and use these verses from Revelation as a spring-board.
The word ‘Revelation’ means “uncovering”…and “John The Beloved” received this vision of end-times, while he was in exile on a Greek island called Patmos.
There, Jesus appeared before him, and scared him half to death! But The Lord calmed him down, and said in Revelation 4:1, “I will show you things that must take place, after this.”
So, everything that will take place after the time of this ‘uncovering’ some 2000 years ago…are things that are “pre-ordained”….a sequence of events that MUST occur AS they have been described! And here, as the book is drawing to a close, the angel of the Lord repeats that promise. These are things that MUST take place…very soon! That statement refers to the entire Revelation, as John has witnessed it.
One of the things he witnessed is in verse 2 of chapter 22. In the preceding chapter there is a description of the NEW Heavenly City, The New Jerusalem…and in that city is the Throne of God, and from God’s Throne comes a river of PURE WATER OF LIFE….that Water of Life flows down the center of the main street of the Holy City, and on either side of that street, grows the “TREE OF LIFE”!
Now, that’s really a neat observation to make, as the Book is coming to a close because the LAST mention of the Tree of Life was at the BEGINNING of the Bible…or nearly so. In Genesis 2:9, we are told that God created a man and a woman, and that He place them in a Garden Paradise, and only gave them ONE rule!…to stay away from the Tree that He had planted in the CENTER of the Garden.
Now, that was NOT the “Tree of Life”! It was called the “Tree of knowledge of good and evil”! But EVE allowed the DEVIL that old serpent…to TEMPT her! And she ate from the tree, and gave the fruit to Adam, and HE ate it also!
They DISOBEYED God! And for that disobedience, God threw them out of the Garden Paradise…BEFORE they could also eat from the TREE OF LIFE and live forever!…So, at the beginning of human history, the Tree of Life disappears from view…and doesn’t re-appear until ETERNITY is set to begin!
I don’t want to look so much at the FRUIT that appears on this tree or the statement that the LEAVES of this tree are for the “healing of the nations”…but rather, I want to look at these two appearances…which are sometimes referred to as the Biblical “Book-Ends!: and tell you that EVERYTHING that happens between them…is the DESTINY of man!
If we go a little farther back in Genesis…to the first verse, of the first chapter, we read the words…”In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth…”. That was not a random act of Creation! It was NOT like ‘throwing mud against a wall to see what kind of splatter it would make’! God had a PURPOSE for everything that He did…in His Creation!
This physical world was created because He intended to populate it…with US…men and women; you and me!
Prior to this, God had already created a race of super-powerful, super-intelligent beings: created them for the SOLE purpose of SERVING or WORSHIPPING HIM! But the most powerful and intelligent of those beings…which we call ANGELS…REBELLED against God, and tried to USURP the place of God in Heaven! And HE first called LUCIFER, now called SATAN…was cast OUT of Heaven, along with ALL those that choose to follow him! Because they hadn’t been given the right to choose!
And then God created US!…not to serve …like the ANGELS were created! We were created to CHOOSE! If you want to hear and know the DESTINY of man…in ONE word…that’s it: CHOOSE!
The very first verse in the Bible says that God created the Heavens and the Earth. The second verse says that the SPIRIT of God, ‘MOVED’ upon the surface of the Earth. ‘MOVED’ is really “BROODED”: as the Spirit of God looked forward in time: from THEN to NOW!…and beyond! All the way to the END!…and DETERMINED EVERYTHING that would happen…in between!
You might think that you are here this morning because YOU want to be…but the truth is: you’re here because God wants you here. There are OTHERS who think they STAYED AWAY…because they wanted to…but in TRUTH, God has already fore-saw and fore-told THAT, too!
That doesn’t mean that you aren’t FREE to make your own decisions!…you are! Remember: that is your REASON for existing: to CHOOSE! The only difference being: God already knows!…which decisions you WILL make!
So, people will continue to be BORN…and people will continue to DIE…and people will continue to LIVE….and always before them…will be a CHOICE!
That choice is outlined for us….by Jesus Himself, in Matthew 7: 13 & 14…where He said, “broad is the gate, and WIDE is the way, that leads to DESTRUCTION…and many will enter in thereat…but STRAIT is the gate…(that means NARROW)…strait is the gate, and narrow the way, that leads to LIFE, and FEW there be that find it”
The reason that not very many people FIND that narrow gate is: not many people are LOOKING for it! The WIDE gate…and the WIDE road…is EASY to find, and EASY to stay on! It LEADS to destruction!…but nobody wants to THINK about that…because it’s so EASY to TRAVEL!
I want you to picture in your mind an aerial view of a broad, smooth super-highway. It curves away from where you are…a gentle, sweeping curve to the left. Now, imagine a SMALL…NARROW exit lane…LEAVING that super-highway and curving its narrow way off to the right!
That BROAD path, is the way of DESTRUCTION…and everybody ever born IS travelling it! The NARROW path, is the way of LIFE…and those that accept Jesus as Savior will LEAVE the BROAD path, and ENTER the NARROW gate…and be SAVED!
Now, if you are travelling the broad path as a YOUNGSTER, then the narrow path is RIGHT THERE…right BESIDE you! And all you have to do is TURN onto it!
BUT, if you are OLDER…and have been travelling that BROAD path for years!…do you know where the narrow path is THEN? SAME PLACE! It’s RIGHT THERE…beside you! And, all you have to do is TURN to it…to find LIFE!
And should you live another 30 years…where will the narrow path be then? Same place! It is always RIGHT THERE…WAITING for YOU to find it!
And that fact causes MANY people to say, “Well, I’ll just WAIT…and ENJOY the EASY travel on this BROAD path…and just before I DIE, I’ll step onto the NARROW PATH. But there’s a PROBLEM with that! You never KNOW…WHEN that broad path will end! There are NO signs posted saying, “Warning…road ends 3 days ahead!”
You’ll just be travelling along and ONE step will be on solid ground, and BOOM!…the NEXT step is out into empty space!…and the RESULTS of the CHOICES that you made…while on that BROAD path!
NOW, back in Revelation 21…in verse 27…where John has been describing that new Holy City of God; he said, the ONLY people that will ENTER it…and all the WONDERS and SPLENDORS it contains…wonders we are told that we can’t even BEGIN to imagine, NOW, the only ones that will be able to EXPERIENCE those wonders are those whose NAMES are written down, in the Lamb’s Book Of Life!
We are told about that Book Of Life, EARLIER in this book of Revelation! In chapter 13, where ALL people…will be gathered before the Throne Of Judgement…and “BOOKS” will be opened…and ANOTHER “BOOK”!
That ‘OTHER BOOK’ is the “Lamb’s Book Of Life”…and IT will be checked FIRST! If your name is not found THERE, THEN the OTHER books will be referred to…and you will be JUDGED by what is written there!
In THOSE other books is a record of everything you have ever DONE…everything you have ever thought…everything you have ever SAID!…It’s ALL recorded!…and THAT is what you will be judged by!
And in case you’re thinking that you will be able to come out of THAT judgement INTACT…the Bible says that when judged by the LAW…NO ONE will be found as JUSTIFIED!!! And THAT is why John said that in the New Heavenly City…only those who are found written in the “Lamb’s Book Of Life” will be allowed to ENTER the REST, and enjoy the WONDERS of God!
There is an overriding PURPOSE to life…and that purpose is to CHOOSE! You will either choose to ACCEPT Christ, and His sacrifice of your behalf!…or, you will choose to REJECT Him! And, just for the record, if you are here today, and you have NOT chosen to REJECT Him OR ACCEPT Him…if you think you are kinda NEUTRAL on the subject…FORGET IT!!! That doesn’t work! Failing to make a choice is exactly the SAME as choosing to REJECT Him! And, you are about to be CONDEMNED by YOUR OWN WORDS and ACTIONS!…against which, NO flesh will be justified!!!
BUT, the God who CREATED you and created this world for you to be BORN in, and created Heaven for you to LIVE in…eternally…WANTS you to be saved!
But God is AWESOME and MAJESTIC…and FRIGHTENING! God is SPIRIT!…and we can’t see Him, or touch Him! And God is RIGHTEOUS, and cannot overlook SIN!
So, to overcome ALL of that, God sent His SON…His OWN, PRECIOUS SON!…to BECOME for us what we CANNOT become on our own! He came to be OUR offering to God for the sins we have committed!…whatever they might be!
And Jesus, The SON of GOD, was BORN…a tiny baby! The creator of all the universe ENTERED into His OWN creation!
And, Jesus, the Son of God, GREW to become a Man…and He went about preaching and teaching, so that we would know HOW to live! And He TOLD us about the narrow gate and HOW we could FIND it…and find LIFE!
And His preachings and teachings were written down by His followers, so we could read them, and understand what He wants of us!
And, when ALL had been done, Jesus was ARRESTED and TRIED on phony charges. He was BEATEN until He was nearly DEAD!…a mocking crown of THORNS was place on His head, and BEATEN DOWN with a stick!…and He was led away to DIE!
On a mountain called Calvary, He was NAILED to a wooden cross and lifted up into the air…to SUFFER in AGONY for HOURS!…until God was SATISFIED…and EVERY sin was paid for!
And FINALLY, His torture was finished, and He died! And if the story ended there, then our DESTINY would have ended WITH Him! But it doesn’t!!!
His lifeless body was taken down and buried away in a borrowed tomb. And for 3 days, He rested, and on that 3rd day…He AROSE in TRIUMPH over death…and TRIUMPH over SIN!…and He lives NOW…and He lives FOREVER!…and He promised US that IF we BELIEVE!…WE can live forever WITH Him!…in a NEW body…that will never grow OLD or SICK or TIRED or HUNGRY…never experience PAIN or SADNESS!
THAT is our DESTINY!…if we believe!!! And, telling you BEFORE, is PROPHECY! But, if we DON’T believe, then God has prepared a place for those that REJECT Him also…and it is the exact OPPOSITE of the place of WONDER and SPLENDOR that He created for those that LOVE Him!
It is described as a Lake of FIRE…a place of DARKNESS and TORMENT…where the AGONY of BURNING…NEVER stops! Can you IMAGINE a place where ALL of your FLESH is BURNING CONSTANTLY…but NOT being CONSUMED…so the BURNING NEVER stops?
When I was a kid, I burned my wrist on a red-hot stove pipe. Us kids used to run to the kitchen in the morning, and get dressed behind the wood stove. Because, it was the only warm place in the house!
That wood cook stove was the only heat in the house and mother would pour some kerosene on the wood to get it burning faster. That stove pipe would get red hot! While dressing one day, I reached up and my wrist came up against that hot pipe, and stuck to it! You talk about HURT!…that HURT!!! Imagine that kind of pain ALL OVER…and having that hurting all over NEVER end!
And even WORSE than THAT: all the time you are burning in that lake of fire, you will KNOW that it is YOUR own fault!…that you are THERE because YOU CHOSE your OWN DESTINY!…and it was the WRONG choice! And, you ignored clear PROPHECY!…and you will be continually REMINDED of the day at Amphi Bible Church, when you heard the preacher say, “You don’t HAVE to GO there! That place was never INTENDED for YOU! Jesus said it was created for the DEVIL…and HIS angels!” But, IF you are DETERMINED to seek your OWN DESTINY…and REFUSE to ACCEPT the destiny that HE DIED to secure FOR you!…He will ALLOW that! He won’t LIKE it!…but He will ALLOW it!…if you are determined to suffer for eternity!
The Bible says that God is not WILLING…that ANY should perish…but that ALL should come to repentance! He is NOT WILLING! But, He WILL allow it…IF you INSIST!
The question is: why would you do that? Why would ANYONE choose for themselves a DESTINY that God does NOT want you to have? Why would you reject His SON!…and reject the WONDERS and MARVELS of Heaven!…JUST because of your PRIDE?
In the issue of DESTINY…there are ONLY TWO…ultimately! And in the issue of PROPHECY…we have already been TOLD which is which, and how to AVOID the WRONG one. God…Christ…has already DONE everything that is necessary for you to WALK the streets of Gold…beside the River Of Life…and by the TREE Of Life…and AVOID the horrible Lake Of Fire!
And now it’s up to YOU!…to MAKE the right choice! ACCEPT Him, and His sacrifice for you…and your destiny is eternal joy in Paradise!
REJECT Him…or FAIL to choose, which is the same thing…and your destiny is eternal DYING in the Lake Of Fire!
Joshua told the people of Israel…”Choose you this day whom you will serve…” I’m telling YOU the same thing…RIGHT NOW!
Invitation hymn #463…”Precious Lord, Take My Hand”. Lead me AWAY from that horrible burning ETERNITY, and lead me TO that beautiful MANSION we are PROMISED, with YOU forever! Precious Lord, TAKE MY HAND!