This sermon talks about "Christians" accepting "Jesus" and "Christians" being saved. God doesn't care about terminology. It applies equally to Jews who puts their faith in "Yeshua" (the Hebrew word for "Jesus", which means "Salvation") as God's Messiah (the Hebrew word for "Christ", which means "the specially chosen One").
This is a sermon prepared for Christian Chapel's Children's Church the Sunday after the Wednesday-afternoon killings at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas (September 15, 1999). Fort Worth is about 30 miles west of Dallas. Located in Northeast Texas, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is called "The Metroplex".
Although the sermon was prepared for Children's Church (ages 2-11), most adults, even many ministers, do not know the specific biblical teachings discussed here.
Remember - this is meant to be preached -- out loud -- not read. Also, remember that one of the most important teaching techiniques, particularly with children, is repetition.
Scripture quotes are from various translations, mainly NKJV, with some NIV. Entire verses are listed even if only parts are used.
We need to talk about what happened in Fort Worth this past Wednesday. As you know, a gunman came into Wedgwood Baptist Church and shot and killed seven people. Then he killed himself.
I'm sure a lot of you are wondering "Why did he do that?" A lot of those children were just a few years older than you. You probably never thought something like that would happen to someone your age, did you?
A lot of you are probably wondering "What happened to the people who got killed? Did they go to Heaven? What about the guy who shot them? Is he in Hell?"
They're probably in Heaven, and he's probably in a place called "Hades", which is where people get sent before they get put in Hell. But a lot of you probably would like a lot more information.
First, I've got some questions for you . . .
How many of you go to friends' houses to play?
When you go to play, do you go to play with the house, or do you go to play with your friend?
Do you say "hello" to the house, or do you say "hello" to your friend?
What if your friend's house was destroyed?
"Well, Rick, I guess he would go live someplace else!"
But he would still be alive, wouldn't he? His house would be destroyed, but he would still be alive. So he would go and live someplace else, wouldn't he?
The Bible says that man . . . that includes women and children . . ., man is a spirit, has a soul, and lives in a body. (Not verbatim) This (hold your hand) is not me. It's just a house where my spirit lives. My spirit is me.
What is your 'soul'? Your soul is your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, your opinions, your ideas. The Bible calls it your 'heart'. When you physically die, you don't just cease to exist. Your soul is connected with your spirit. When you physically die, your spirit goes somewhere else. You can still see, hear, think, feel, and so on. Only your physical body is dead.
What is it like when you die? What is your spirit? Is it like a puff of smoke or a cloud? Are you going to be a big bright light? Are you going to be something like Casper the Friendly Ghost?
The real me has a spiritual body. Your spirit body is a lot like your physical body.
Revelation 6:9-11  When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?''  And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
This is something that's going to happen in Heaven. God gave them robes. What good is a robe if you don't have a body? How can you put a robe on a bright light or a cloud? They have spiritual bodies.
Once we die, does that mean we will never have a physical body again?
1 Corinthians 15:51-52  Behold, I tell 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 will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.
This is called the Rapture. Rapture means 'caught up', 'snatched away'. Jesus is going to take everyone who believes in Him to Heaven -- in physical, resurrected bodies. First, He is going to renew and change the bodies of dead Christians. Then He's going to take their spirit bodies and put them back into their renewed physical bodies. People will be coming right up out of the ground in renewed, living physical bodies. Their spirits were in Heaven, but now they'll be back in a physical body. But they won't stop on the ground -- they'll float right up in the air until they meet Jesus in the clouds. And those who believe Jesus but have not died will be changed, and they will float up in the air and meet Jesus.
I want you to understand something extremely important -- this is probably going to happen in the next 20 years. You guys probably will never physically die!
But are we just going to go to Heaven and live in Heaven in physical bodies?
No. After Jesus takes Christians to Heaven the only people left on earth will be people who don't believe. God will pretty much let Satan rule over earth. Some people will still accept God and become Christian, but basically the world is going to be a really horrible place to live.
It's going to get so bad that after seven years the entire world is going to attack Israel. But there's one thing they won't count on . . .
The Bible says "He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." That's talking about Jesus. Jesus picked the Jews to tell the world about God. When the world attacks Israel, Jesus will come back and destroy everyone who doesn't accept Him.
But He's not going to be coming back alone!
Jude 14-15  "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones, to judge everyone, and  to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
At that point Jesus will rule the entire world from Jerusalem. He'll live in Jerusalem. And the tribulation martyrs will rule with Him for 1,000 years. (Revelation 20:4)
What about the guy who killed all those people? He's probably in Hades, waiting to be judged and thrown in Hell, which is the Lake of Fire, with eternal punishment. Remember Moses and the burning bush? The bush was burning, but it didn't burn up. If God can do that with a bush, He can do it with a body. Imagine being set on fire, and it never goes out! And it doesn't kill you either -- it just keeps burning and hurting! If a person dies and hasn't accepted Jesus, they don't go directly to Hell. First they go to Hades. Later on they'll be taken out of Hades and thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Revelation 20:11-15  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
This is why it's so important to tell people about Jesus. If people don't accept Jesus, they're going to wind up in Hell. You've got to realize that a lot of grown-ups don't know about Jesus. Don't think that just because you're young and they're old they must know about Jesus and you shouldn't tell them! With a lot of grown-ups, they've heard His name, but that's about it. They really don't know anything about Him.
It's also important for you to understand that a lot of grown-ups won't talk to us (adults) about God because they're embarrassed or they're worried they'll look stupid. But they will listen to you guys. You can just say "You know, they were telling us about Jesus in Sunday School. He died to pay for our sins. If you believe in Him, you'll go to Heaven."
But what about the guy in Fort Worth? What if he accepted Jesus? He probably did not accept Jesus, but we can't know for sure! What if he accepted Jesus 5 years ago, got mad about something, went into the church and killed all those people?
If he accepted Jesus, is he in Heaven or is he in Hades waiting to go to Hell?
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 4:25 He died for our sins and rose again to make us right with God.
Ephesians 2:8-9  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --  not by works, so that no one can boast.
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
You need to understand what happens when you accept Jesus. God gives you credit for the perfect life Jesus lived. When it comes time for God [specifically, Jesus] to judge you He doesn't look at whether you committed sins. He looks at Jesus' record. He gives you credit for the perfect life Jesus lived. So He says "I don't see any sin." and He lets you into Heaven.
You've got to understand -- that guy isn't going to go to Hell because he killed a bunch of people -- He's going to go to Hell because He didn't accept Jesus. If he did accept Jesus, then he's in Heaven -- even though he killed all those people!
You'll probably say "Yeah, but he killed the people after he accepted Jesus, so doesn't that mean he'll still go to Hell?"
No. You see, when you accept Jesus, all your sins are forgiven. Not just your sins from last week or last year. Even the sins you haven't done yet are forgiven. God wipes out all your sins, even future sins. People still sin after they accept Jesus. But God gives them credit for the perfect life Jesus lived, so they'll wind up in Heaven anyway.
It's not about how good a person you are. It's not about whether you did good things or bad things. If you accept Jesus you'll go to Heaven. If you don't accept Jesus, you'll go to Hell. A lot of bad people are going to wind up in Heaven, because they accepted Jesus. A lot of good people are going to go to Hell. They can treat people nice, give money to the poor, help people, and they're still going to go to Hell, because they didn't accept Jesus.
(Note: See John 3:18 and You Can Be the Best Person In Hell -- Here's How!)
See, salvation is a gift from God. God isn't sitting there saying "Did you help five little old ladies across the street? Did you take out the trash eighteen times? How much money did you give to charity?" God is saying "Because I'm your Father and I love you, I'm offering you salvation as a gift. All you have to do is take it."
But of course, if you don't take it, you won't have it! Have you ever seen anybody bring a gift to a dead person? You can't accept a gift after you're dead, can you?
See, getting into Heaven isn't about doing good things. It's about whether or not you accept God's free gift. You do that by accepting Jesus.
If a lot of bad people will get into Heaven, does that mean you're going to have to live with a bunch of bad people in Heaven?
No, not really. You see, God changes us before we get into Heaven. It doesn't matter how bad we were. God will change us, so that when we get into Heaven we won't do bad things anymore. So even though a lot of bad people will get into Heaven, when they get into Heaven they won't be bad anymore.
Romans 4:4-8  Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
"Justifies" means "saves". This is saying that God saves wicked people and treats them as if they were good people. He does this for anybody who accepts Jesus. He doesn't just treat them like good people -- He changes them into good people.
I told you that people who accept Jesus will go to Heaven and have a spiritual body. Then Jesus will put their spirit body in a renewed physical body and bring them back to Heaven in a resurrected physical body. Then, about seven years later, Jesus will bring us back to earth with Him and we'll rule with Him for 1,000 years.
After the 1,000 years, Jesus will take the people who are being punished in Hades, the people who didn't accept Him, and He'll put them in Hell.
But where are we going to be after the 1,000 years? Are we going to go back to Heaven?
Revelation 21:1-4  And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
We will live on earth, with God . . .
(c) 1999 Joseph "Rick" Reinckens
Used by permission