There’s Only One Way from First to Last

August 21, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Isaiah 66:18-24

Isaiah 66:18-24

18 As for me, because of their works and their thoughts, the time is coming for me to gather people from all nations and all languages. They will come, and they will see my glory.

19 Then I will set up a sign among them, and I will send out survivors from among them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, to those who are archers, to Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands, who have not heard my message and have not seen my glory. Then they will declare my glory among the nations.

20 Then they will bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. They will bring them on horses and chariots and wagons and mules and camels to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, in the same way that the people of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel to the Lord’s house. 21 Even from among these people I will take priests and Levites, says the Lord.

22 For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making will remain standing before me, declares the Lord, in the same way your offspring and your name will stand. 23 As often as one new moon follows another and one Sabbath follows another, all flesh will come to worship before me, says the Lord.

24 They will go out, and they will see the corpses of the ones who were rebelling against me, for their worm will not die, and their fire will not be quenched, and all flesh will be horrified by them.

I want to know I’ve got it right.  Do I have the right job?  For you dating—are you dating the right person?  What about your church?  Are you going to the right church?  Then comes the big question:  Am I on the right path to heaven?

If you want to drive from here to my house there are several routes to take.  You can drive down Firewheel to Castle, take the frontage road to Liberty Grove and then to Dalrock.  Or you can go down to Highway 66, down to Dalrock.  You all have reason why you would go one way or another. But, when it comes to heaven there is only one way.  You know it well.  Everyone who believes that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of their sins are declared, “Not Guilty” by God and will enjoy the glory of heaven.  This is the case of Kendon Williams who passed from earth to heaven last week.

Our worship theme has been called “Hard Truth” and today’s title is “The first will be last; the last will be first.”  The Word of God in the last chapter of Isaiah paints this picture for us.  God chose the Jewish nation through which he would send the Messiah.  God positioned them in the place where the Savior would be born.  He gave them various ceremonial laws and commandments to set his people apart from the rest of the peoples of the Old Testament.  They were like a single Palm tree in the desert of people and stood a witness to them that there is only one God and one way to heaven.  Mind you, the Israelites were living among people who had their own little kingdoms and gods.  Reading through the Book of Joshua impresses upon how many cities, kings and area of false gods the people had to conquer.  But, the Israelites didn’t like being special.  They wanted to be like everyone else.  They gradually turned away from the Lord God and began chasing after the what they thought would be a better life—feeding the cravings of their sinful nature and separating themselves from God.  Things haven’t changed much.  People today chase after things like rain, health, wealth, family, fun and fantasy in search of a better life.  So, just like the Israelites so many people are falling for the foolishness of the devil’s lie and losing their home in heaven.

Today, we take to heart the message of God’s prophet Isaiah.  God graciously sent his prophet to teach us there is only one God and one way to heaven. And if people take the rebellious path of life, they will end up eternally separated from God.  The Book of Isaiah is filled with God’s law and gospel and proclaims this time tested theme:

There’s Only One Way

It Was the Same

I like to use the example of our stained-glass window of the Good Shepherd.  You can stand back and see the beauty of this entire work, or you can come close and see the detail and every brush stroke of this wonderful piece of art.  Likewise with God’s plan of salvation.  Isaiah has some amazing details about God’s plan of salvation. Let’s look at it like a piece of art and start on the left side.

“As for me, because of their works and their thoughts, the time is coming for me to gather people from all nations and all languages. They will come, and they will see my glory.” 

If God was speaking to the surrounding nations of Israel they would be surprised at what they see. God sees the source of everyone’s works and thoughts.  If one’s life is coming from a self-centered source without room for the Lord God, then their words and actions stand as a testimony to their unbelief.  If the same words and actions come from a heart ruled by the Lord God, then these actions give testimony to their faith. The people around Israel were surprised for they never thought God would condemn his chosen people!  But, the Lord revealed that his chosen people were all too often a people of delusions and entitlements. But, you know the history of the Old Testament and see how often God used surrounding nations to bring Israel to their knees of repentance. For God had a promise to keep—to send the Savior.

“Then I will set up a sign among them, and I will send out survivors from among them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, to those who are archers, to Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands, who have not heard my message and have not seen my glory. Then they will declare my glory among the nations.” 

God always saved a remnant of his people to once again be returned to the true worship of the Lord.  He kept the tribe of Benjamin and Judah, in a little town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born.  However, after this promise was kept, the Jewish nation was buried in rubble as the Roman Empire took over and scattered Jewish believers all over the world. Those who believed in the Promised Messiah went to heaven, and those who didn’t were lost. It was the same then. There was Only One Way to end up in heaven.

Our generation can see the same thing happening.  More and more people are separating themselves from the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.  A country that once respected God’s House of Prayer and saw to it that their children knew the truths of God’s Word has given way to the society and customs that leave little room for God.  God is being removed from public gathering places, from work and from school at an alarming rate, only to be replaced by selfish feelings and worthless goals. We also would do well to heed the warning of Isaiah.  God said there is Only One Way to heaven and we need to be daily reminded, encouraged and supported by God’s Word in our lives.  For those who chose to go another route apart from God end up under God’s judgment.  And because we are still possessing our sinful nature that rebels against God, and evil thoughts that shame us, and a desire to do our own thing, we will do well to heed God’s warning and meditate on Isaiah’s solution:

“Then I will set up a sign among them, and I will send out survivors from among them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, to those who are archers, to Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands, who have not heard my message and have not seen my glory. Then they will declare my glory among the nations.”

God sent believers then to proclaim his love and forgiveness to repentant sinners.  They would hear this Good News, believe in the Lord’s forgiveness from the promised Messiah and be saved.  That Was The Only Way To Heaven Then and

It’s the Only Way Today

We can easily see the picture Isaiah paints for us of the Old Testament believers.  Now we move across his picture to the center.  The miracle of God’s love and forgiveness surprises us.  God set up his chosen people, his chosen plan of salvation for his people, and worked to preserve them so the Savior would be born.  However, once God worked through the Israelites to bring the Savior to our world.  Now, we see in Isaiah’s picture the nations around the Jews bringing God’s love to the Children of Israel! 

“Then they will bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. They will bring them on horses and chariots and wagons and mules and camels to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, in the same way that the people of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel to the Lord’s house.”  

The Old Testament often uses “holy mountain Jerusalem” to refer to the group of believers.  Today we would call this the Holy Christian Church—everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ in their heart.  We can see Isaiah’s artwork of people from the Jewish Nation being converted to Christianity.  This is as pleasing to the Lord as Old Testament believers who brought offerings to the Lord for the right reasons—to show their trust and honor of God!

This would have been shocking news for the people of Isaiah’s day. They heard that their nation would be destroyed and other nations would be filled with true believers.  Then those believers would turn around and bring the Jewish people the Good News of Jesus the promised Messiah and Savior of sinners.  How could this be?  God would do the work.  21 Even from among these people I will take priests and Levites, says the Lord.  God would graciously call people from other nations to be the ones to bring God’s Word back to the Jewish people.  It Was The Same Then and It’s the Same Today—There In Only One Way to Heaven.

A few years ago I read an article from the website “whataboutJesus.com” where a Jewish man named David wrote the following: ““Thank you for having your website. I have recently become a Christian…after over 30 years in Judaism.  Your website was extremely helpful in presenting the truth about Jesus to me, especially when I was searching but hesitant about visiting a church.  I would appreciate a prayer for the conversion of my unbelieving Jewish family, that their eyes will be opened to Jesus and realize that he died for them…I would also appreciate a prayer for strength as I encounter opposition to my new Christian faith.  God bless you!”  Just as it was then, so it is today as Isaiah prophesied.  It’s happening that the Gospel of Jesus is working to turn the hearts of Jewish people to Christ and be saved.  And not only Jewish people today, but it is the same for all people who hear the Good News of Jesus and learn of The One Way To Heaven.  This is our confidence as we continue to share Jesus with others, for

It’s the Same Tomorrow

We return again to Isaiah’s picture of God’s plan of salvation.  Salvation came for those in the Old Testament who believed in the coming Savior.  Salvation is for everyone today who believes in Jesus as their Savior.  And it is the same for everyone tomorrow.  But, look how Isaiah paints the mural for everyone who rejects the Lord Jesus:

“They will go out, and they will see the corpses of the ones who were rebelling against me, for their worm will not die, and their fire will not be quenched, and all flesh will be horrified by them.” 

Do you find it striking that Isaiah, who is often called the “Old Testament Gospel Writer” finished his painting with this picture of heaven and hell?  Perhaps this is the most graphic picture of hell.  Dare we take a closer look at it?  There we see people who rejected Jesus the Messiah in fire, but they aren’t burning up!  They are suffering forever.  It is the horrible side of God’s statement that There Is Only One Way To Salvation, and those who rebelled against the Lord are condemned.

Nothing has changed and it will not change into the future.  God really will take believers to heaven and he really will send people to hell who have turned to go their own way, refuse to hear, believe and live according to God’s Word. Jesus made this plain:

“Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says. The reason you do not listen is that you do not belong to God”

John 8:47

The picture that Isaiah paints for us stands a as warning to our sinful nature, to our church, to our families and to our nation.  There is no excuse for God’s warning against the rebellious stands.  There In Only One Way to Heaven, it’s the same then, now and in the future.

However, for you the same promise God made yesterday is still your promise forever.  If you would walk through the burial grounds in downtown Dallas you would find some names on tombstone that you might recognize: Thomas Landry, Mickey Mantle, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  But, most of the people under those gravestones your probably wouldn’t recognize.  Most people are dead and buried and forgotten after a generation or two.  But, how would you like to be remembered forever?   Then listen to this portion of the mural Isaiah paints for you today.

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making will remain standing before me, declares the Lord, in the same way your offspring and your name will stand. As often as one new moon follows another and one Sabbath follows another, all flesh will come to worship before me, says the Lord.”

Dear Children of God, Can you picture having traveled down the narrow road that leads to heaven, a non-Jewish person—one of the last who is now the first before the Lord.  And then something amazing is heard by everyone.  The Lord knows your name! Did you hear why? It wasn’t because of what you did for the Lord, but because of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for you!  As God made the new heavens and the new earth that will last forever, so all who called upon the name of the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ will stand the same tomorrow and forever! We, and all our loved one who died believing in Jesus will stand because Jesus Christ lived the perfect life for you, died on the cross for you, and took all the punishment for every sin for you.  Then Jesus returned to heaven to prepare a place for you.  And to prepare you along the way to your home in heaven Jesus gave you his Word of promise, guidance, and joyful service to the Lord.  The Lord connected his promise to Holy Communion, where Jesus gives you forgiveness personally.  Jesus who was, and is, and will remain to strengthen your faith and give you strength and thankful joy in service to him.  It’s the same yesterday, today and forever, There Is Only One Way to Heaven.  It’s Jesus Christ.

So, have I got it right?  You might have the right job, dating the right person and going to the right church.  You are also on the right—the narrow path to heaven.  Yes, there are lots of roads you can take to my house, but only one to heaven.  God sustain our hearts and minds to continue to clearly see the Only Way That Leads To Heaven.  May he also bring our country to return to the Only Way To Heaven with renewed vigor to be in God’s Word to learn from the past, have peace for today, and hope for tomorrow.  You know the only way to heaven!  You know and believe in Jesus! Amen.

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