Then I looked and there was a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud one who looked like a son of man, with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Another angel came out of the temple, crying out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap the harvest, for the time to reap has come, because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.” So the one who was sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven who also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel (came) from the altar, (who) was in charge of the fire, and cried out in a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and cut the clusters from the earth’s vines, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage. He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury. (Revelation 14:14-19)
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. . . . Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 31:31-34, 44-46)
I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15)
As Catholic men, I am sure many of you have met someone who doubted the existence of Heaven and Hell, especially Hell. They may say to you, “How can a loving God condemn anyone to Hell.” While leaving the theological arguments to the theologians, the Scriptures have a lot to say about Heaven and Hell.
Revelation 14:14,19 speaks of a “son of man” with a sharp sickle reaping the “earth’s vintage” and casting the condemned into the “great wine press” of the wrath of God. The author of Revelation wanted to leave no doubt that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead-and that some, through there own choosing, will find themselves separated forever from the presence of God.
In Matthew 25, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus says to the sheep (those who cared for the least of their brothers) that they would “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” However, Jesus says to the goats on his left (who did nothing to care for the least of their brothers), “‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Not a pleasant image.
Jesus has absolute dominion over creation. Nothing will escape his justice or his judgments. Throughout the Book of Revelation, John emphasizes Jesus’ holiness and righteousness. Only Jesus is worthy to open the scroll of God’s judgment because of his purity and because of his innocent sacrifice on the cross (Revelation 5:9). Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, is the only one capable of opening the “Book of Life” and passing true and fair judgment over all of us. He is the only one capable of determining whether we are “ripe” for eternal life with the Father, or for the judgment our sins deserve.
This can sound quite intimidating-if we lose sight of the reason why Jesus died and the nature of his death. As Catholic men, we are all called to bow down and submit to Jesus. Yes, he lives in unapproachable glory, and none of us can ever hope to be worthy of the life he calls us to. Yet the promise of the gospel is that if we embrace Jesus and let him rule over our lives with his love and mercy, we will be spared the cup of God’s wrath because of Jesus’ death on the cross..
This is the heart of the gospel. It is all about a generous God redeeming a fallen people he loves. It is not about good people doing good and being rewarded. It is not about a list of rules and regulations that make us acceptable to God when we die. The gospel is about being made right, being forgiven, and being loved without condition by God. It is about a redeemed people doing good works, because they know God loves them. It is a trap for us as men to think we have to do good works to earn God’s love. We need to be redeemed men saying, “Thank you Father,” as he releases us from the power of sin.
The more we learn to receive from Jesus, the closer he draws us to himself and the more fully we are compelled to love others and obey his commands. It may seem so difficult to receive from Jesus. We can feel unworthy and sinful. We can feel there is no way he could possibly love us so deeply. But Jesus loves all of us, even the worst of sinners. He stands ready to give his love in fullness, no matter who we are or what we have done.
At the same time, the gospel warns us against the things that keep us from receiving from Jesus: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life” (Luke 21:34). If we are not alert, we might miss out on Jesus’ presence. A lack of vigilance can block the flow of grace and cause us to become dull to the Spirit’s voice as we live out our lives.
Our God is a generous and loving God. He is ever faithful to his promises. As St. Paul once wrote, “If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more . . . will we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10). God is not an ironfisted tyrant ready to punish us for every misdeed. He is a loving and kind Father who has made every provision for his children to choose to come back into his embrace.
With such promises laid before us, we should freely place our hope and trust in the Lord for our eternal destination. Jesus has triumphed over death, and he has redeemed us from sin. All he asks is that we make a decision to come under his gracious and merciful rule. Have you made that decision? If not, why not give your life to Jesus right now and allow him to be Lord of your life.
This week, we enter the season of Advent, a season of joyful hope and anticipation. It is also a season of giving and receiving. Let’s commit ourselves, each and every day of this season of grace, to give our lives to Jesus and to receive from Jesus his very life.
“Lord Jesus, I give my life to you. I come to you to receive all you want to give me. Lord of creation, I submit to you and gratefully bow before your throne. Fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit, and empower me to obey your law of love. I want you to be Lord of every area of my life, now and for all eternity.”
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. Take a few minutes to read and meditate on the Scriptures above as it relates to Heaven and Hell. What do you think God is trying to say to you through them?
- 2. How would you respond to someone who says he does not believe in Heaven or Hell?
- 3. What is your response to these words from the article? “The gospel is about being made right, being forgiven, and being loved without condition by God. It is about a redeemed people doing good works, because they know God loves them. It is a trap for us as men to think we have to do good works to earn God’s love. We are redeemed men saying, “Thank you Father,” as he releases us from the power of sin.”
- 4. What is your image of God the Father? Does it coincide with these words from the article? “God is not an ironfisted tyrant ready to punish us for every misdeed. He is a loving and kind Father who has made every provision for his children to choose to come back into his embrace.”
- 5. How did you respond to these words from the article? “With such promises laid before us, we should freely place our hope and trust in the Lord for our eternal destination. Jesus has triumphed over death, and he has redeemed us from sin. All he asks is that we make a decision to come under his gracious and merciful rule. Have you made that decision? If not, why not give your life to Jesus right now and allow him to be Lord of your life.”
- 6. The article ends with these words: “This week, we enter the season of Advent, a season of joyful hope and anticipation. It is also a season of giving and receiving. Let’s commit ourselves, each and every day of this season of grace, to give our lives to Jesus and to receive from Jesus his very life.” Are you willing to make this Advent commitment?
- 7. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for the grace to say yes to the Lord’s call for your life. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.