The ancient story is told of a young ruffian who caught a bird and brought it to a wise man. He asked the wise man if the bird were alive or dead. The older man stared at him silently for a moment and said, “It is as you desire.”
The boy could release the bird or crush it depending on what the wise man said. He would try to create his own truth in an attempt to deceive the man.
Our eternal destinies are likewise in our hands. We decide where we will spend eternity, whether in Heaven or Hell. God is the wise man who says, “It is as you desire.” The burden is on us to decide. And if we fail to choose, we have still made a choice.
Critics argue that a good God would not send people to hell. If this charge were true, it would present a dilemma for Christians. Yet, the charge rings hollow when compared with Scripture. And the Bible determines truth, not the prejudices of men.
Heaven exists for the righteous and Hell for the unrighteous (John 14:1-6; Matthew 25:46). Jesus said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NKJV). Hell, on the other hand, is “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). “Those who overcome will inherit all things” but the sinner will burn in everlasting fire (Revelation 21:7,8).
Since Heaven and Hell certainly exist, what criterion will be used to determine who enters their gates? Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). John presents the judgment day where the books will be opened and everyone will be judged “each one according to his own works” (Revelation 20:13).
In Jeremiah 21, the nation of Israel is going into captivity because of their repeated sin. He makes a statement that exemplifies the choices God places before us in reference to eternal life. God says, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death” (Jeremiah 21:8). They chose death and God allowed them their choice.
In Ezekiel 18, God discusses this choice in great detail. He says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). Three verses later he says, “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” (Ezekiel 18:23; cf. 2 Peter 3:9).
Man has the freedom to choose right or wrong. Satan places temptations before him that are personalized and deadly (1 John 2:16). God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13). “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Accepting this temptation is our own choice. We can resist Satan’s advances (1 Peter 5:8,9; James 4:7).
The comedian, Flip Wilson, used to say, “The devil made me do it.” In fact, Satan places his temptations before us and God, blessings and life. Satan’s choices will appear more alluring, but they are full of death. God’s choices are simple and modest. The perfectly just and fair judge will pronounce our eternal destiny, but it will be a path we have chosen. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if Hell is our choice.
Our Destiny is in Our Hands