Will You Spend Eternity with God?

Dr. John Ankerberg: How can you be certain that you will spend eternity with God? Now, some of you think that you’re already certain. Some of you know that you’re certain. Some of you haven’t even got a clue because you haven’t thought about it. 

My guest is Dr. Erwin Lutzer who is pastor emeritus of the Moody Church in Chicago, where he served as the senior pastor for 36 years. And, Erwin, why is it important for people to know with certainty that they will spend eternity with God?

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: John, this is the most important topic that anyone could ever consider. Because when you stop to think of it, time is short, and eternity is very long. It’s endless. And the moment that you die, you will either be in a place where you will see nothing but beauty and holiness and be welcomed, or you will be in a place of darkness and abandonment. So, this is why it is so absolutely critical. 

You know, people can be wrong about many things. You can be wrong about politics; you can be wrong about the economy; but don’t ever be wrong about the question of how we can spend eternity with God—and know ahead of time that we have that assurance. And that’s why I’m so excited about this. 

Now, if you’re flying to Europe you might want to be able to book a hotel ahead of time and see where you’re going. But here’s the great tragedy. There are people who never give a single thought to eternity. They may go get a guidebook because they’re going to travel on a vacation, and they’re going to find out where they’re going. But they never take the time to ask this question: Where am I traveling, and where will I be for all of eternity? Absolutely critical.

John Ankerberg: A subtitle that we could put underneath our title today is, “The tragedy of misplaced faith.” I would assume that many people have some kind of faith, alright? But we’re talking about the tragedy of misplaced faith. And you have a fantastic illustration that illustrates the point. Tell us about it.

Erwin Lutzer: Well, you know, back in the early 80s in Chicago we had a Tylenol scandal. Specifically, someone went into a drugstore, and they took out the Tylenol from a bottle and they put in capsules of cyanide. And people bought the bottles, of course, and they took them. And seven people died. 

Now, John, this is absolutely critical. Two powerful lessons: Number one, that faith can actually destroy you. These people believed with all of their hearts that they were actually going to take Tylenol. They thought it was Tylenol, but it was poison. That’s lesson number one.

And lesson number two is often very scary as well: Sometimes a false faith looks like a true one. I’m told that the cyanide capsules looked an awful lot like Tylenol. In the very same way, there are people who have faith and it appears to be the right faith. But in the end they will be disappointed. I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus Christ. You know, He gave these very startling, sobering words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name,’”—in your name! “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” [Matthew 7:21-23 ESV]

Now, John, the reason that those words are so critical is, we’re not talking about people who go to church occasionally, who come in late and then leave before the church service ends. We’re not talking about that kind of a person. We’re talking about people involved in Christian service.

John Ankerberg: Yes, we’re talking about ushers, and maybe people that sing in the choir every week, or Sunday school teachers, or people that never miss.

Erwin Lutzer: Or pastors.

John Ankerberg: Pastors, or people that are making prophecies and even doing the miraculous.

Erwin Lutzer: And even some of their prophecies might come to pass. They might be lucky enough to have that happen. But I want everyone to grasp this. You are dying, and perhaps you even get a glimpse of heaven. And then the door to heaven slams in your face, and you know that you are lost eternally. 

Now, just to tease this out a little bit more, Jesus, in this passage of Scripture, gives us several different warnings. Earlier He said, for example, that the way to life is narrow and “few there be that find it.” Whereas the way to destruction is broad, and He says, “many go in thereat.” Think about this: What Jesus is actually saying is, there are going to be fewer on the narrow road.

John Ankerberg: That’s a scary thought.

Erwin Lutzer: And then there are going to be a lot more on the broad road that leads to destruction. So, what we need to do is to find out what that narrow road is. And we’re living in a day and age when everybody wants to make the narrow road a lot broader. We want to include other religions; we want to include other ways to the Father. But only Jesus qualifies as the way to the Father. 

And while we’re talking about that imagery, visualize a long freeway with many different lanes. This is the broad way that leads to destruction. It doesn’t matter what lane you are on, the fact is that you are going to end eventually in destruction. And you can switch lanes: you can go from one religion to another; one guru to another. But in the end, there’s destruction. 

And the important point to make is this. These are people who expected better. They actually thought that they were going to be able to enter into the kingdom. They thought that they were saved, but they weren’t.

Editor’s note: The content of this article is excerpted and slightly edited from our television series, “How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God – Part 1.

About Dr. John Ankerberg interviews Dr. Erwin Lutzer

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