The foremost belief of a sinner who refuses God’s grace is that the consequences of that refusal will never come. Surely anyone who truly understood and believed in what the Bible teaches about heaven and hell would not take such a chance as this. But, of course, the fact is that such a person does not believe. Only recently I spoke about heaven and hell to an audience which included many non-believers, and they smiled and nodded throughout the message, but all the while not accepting the truth of what the Bible says. Dr. Warren Vanhetloo, my theology teacher in seminary, wrote, “From creation, God had warned of future suffering in the fire of His wrath and had announced that those who believe on Him would escape such punishment. Information about hell as well as possible deliverance is much more plentiful and specific in the New Testament, both by the Son of God during His earthly instruction as well as from His disciples in later communications” (Cogitations, 2/20/07). Yet more people than ever think that such a fate will never happen.
Longer than I can remember people have been ignoring God’s warning about hell because of some reason concocted in their own mind: a loving God would not send someone to a place like that; hell was invented to give the church power over unsuspecting people; if there is a hell it is just a place of separation, not a literal fire; hell is just the place we imagine it to be; or, hell is the culmination of the ongoing narrative of the church over hundreds of years. Whatever a person’s own reason concludes about hell, the Bible is very clear that hell is real, hot, and long (read Rev. 14:10-11). The Bible is also clear that God is longsuffering and not willing that anyone should go there (read 2 Peter 3:9). This is the only reason why the judgment of God which is coming at the end of the age does not take place immediately.
God will one day close the door on everyone’s opportunity for salvation. Yet throughout history God has left the door open as long as possible to give every person the best chance possible at coming. But when the door is shut it is shut, “and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). If hell and the lake of fire are what the Bible says they are, the realization that the door has been shut on your opportunity for escape is the most unimaginable moment of realization, when God your Creator says, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23; see also Matt. 25:41; Luke 13:27).
The door to Eden
“Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:23-24).
The door to Eden was closed. Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and the paradise which they knew as the garden of Eden was finished. Their disobedience affected not only themselves but all their posterity including all of us today. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). There is no way for humanity to go back. We are all born sinners because of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God, actually a decision that was ours as well since we were in Adam at the time. The Bible makes the fact of our sin abundantly clear. Adam had a chance to have the door left open but he, and we, must suffer the consequences of his decision.
The door to the Ark
“And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in” (Gen. 7:15-16).
The other issues beside our point are interesting. This flood of Noah’s day was no doubt a universal flood. Why would Noah have to take two of each kind of animal on the ark if the flood were only local and there were many other pairs of animals to reproduce? Why even build such a monstrosity if he were not rescuing all non-seafaring animals? Also, here the Bible tells us that God created all life as male and female. This applies to the man and the woman also as Jesus reminded the Pharisees, “Have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (Matt. 19:4). We don’t read that Noah had to search and search for multiple gender identities to make sure no one was left out. But we digress.
The shutting of the door to the ark seems like a calloused thing for God to do. First, because so many people would die in a terrible way. Second, because if there is a heaven and a hell, He was consigning them to hell which is the result of their decision not to believe the preaching of Noah. Third, because after the door was shut there would be desperate cries for Him to open the door, repentant cries of change of mind. Yet the door didn’t open. God in His sovereignty knew their hearts. True repentance is seldom late and late repentance is seldom true, and in this case never true. Belief must walk by faith and not by sight. There is no one in hell who doesn’t now believe in hell. But that is not saving faith. That is why the devils believe these things and even tremble at them, to no avail for their rescue (James 2:19).
The door to Lot’s house
“And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. . . But the men put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great . . . Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Gen. 19:5, 10-11, 24).
Today’s LGBT generation would like to make this incident in Sodom less than it really was. Some even suggest that the men of the city only wanted to get to “know” these two men (who turn out to be angels, evidently the Angel of the LORD) in the sense of knowing who they were and having a nice conversation with them. Others think the sin of Sodom was only inhospitality because of a reference in Ezekiel 16:49 which, among other things, mentions their sin of idleness. Still others think that what happened was only the attempted rape of Lot’s daughters or at the most, attempting the same toward Lot’s guests.
To digress once again, it should be pointed out that Ezekiel 16:50 calls the sin of Sodom “abomination” (singular). This is important because in Lev. 18:22 Moses wrote, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (singular). The term “abomination” only appears twice (also in 20:13) in Leviticus in the singular and both times it refers to homosexual sin. The attempted sin at Sodom was certainly the sin of homosexuality.
The angels shut Lot’s door and struck the men with blindness. Immediately afterward God destroyed them all with fire from heaven. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Jude would agree with Paul in Romans 1 that God gave them over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28). The door of opportunity which was available to them through the witness of Lot (see 2 Peter 2:6-8) was closed for good and they perished in temporal and eternal flame.
The door of the Passover
“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper doorpost of the houses, wherein they shall eat it . . . For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:7, 12-13).
I’m sure that the heads of the houses listened carefully to Moses as he gave them the instruction concerning the door posts and the blood. The previous plagues proved that God was not deceptive when He announced the coming judgments. If they did not prepare the lamb in the proper way and apply its blood in the proper place, their own children would die along with the Egyptian children. Once the death angel (Who also seems to be the Angel of the LORD) passed over the door, there was no reversing either death or life.
For Israel it seems that all of them followed God’s instruction and were sparred death in their house. For the Egyptians, however, the case was just the opposite. How could God do such a thing to people who did not know any better? Actually, the Egyptians had as much knowledge and as many chances to repent as any Gentile nation in Israel’s history. As far back as Abraham, but especially from Joseph’s sojourn through Moses’ ministry, they had multiple opportunities to know Israel’s God. We see again that when God shuts the door of opportunity there is no going back.
The door at Kadesh
“Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea . . . Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me” (Numbers 14:25, 29).
We know the story well. The Israelites were to go into the land and conquer it for the LORD but they were afraid and voted 10-2 against doing it. When God informed them that they would all die in the wilderness for their rebellion, they changed their mind and said, “we be here, and will go up into the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned” (14:40). They even made a try at it without God’s blessing and were greatly defeated. It was too late. The door of opportunity was shut. They would die in the wilderness over the next 40 years. The writer of Hebrews concludes, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:18-19).
There are also examples of God’s closed doors in the New Testament.
The door of salvation
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
All people are sinners and all need to be saved. Jesus died for every human being and invites all to come to Him by faith. The door to personal salvation is open as long as the Holy Spirit of God convicts through the Word of God. That door will close at death. Again, “As it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:27-28).
Jesus spoke of a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven (John 12). Some believe this only applies to Israel and others believe that continued resistance to the Holy Spirit’s conviction causes Him to stop convicting which would close the door to salvation. In either case, no one is saved without the Holy Spirit’s conviction, drawing, and regeneration.
The door or the Rapture
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). “Behold I show 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 trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
The verses describing the rapture of the church could go on and on. When it happens the church, the Bride of Christ, will be complete and the door will be shut. Yes, some will be saved during the tribulation but they are not added to the church. The fact is, that the chance of someone getting saved during that time is very slim. Paul said, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:11-12). To miss the rapture is to miss the open door of the gospel era. “Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
The age of grace continues on for only one reason. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). The rapture is imminent and could happen at any time. Come while it is still the day of grace.
The door to the Millennium
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10).
When Jesus returns in glory after the tribulation period, and the church returns with Him from heaven (Rev. 19:11-15), He will separate the wheat from the tares, burning the tares in the fire, and then will gather the wheat into His barn, an illustration of gathering the saved into His kingdom. This division is pictured in Scripture as a separation of wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-32); those who have oil in their lamps and those who do not (Matt. 24:1-13); sheep and goats (Matt. 24:31-46); and those who have on proper wedding garments and those who do not (Matt. 22:11-14). Once this division is done by the Lord at His coming, it will not be reversed. The saved will go into the millennial kingdom for a thousand years, and the lost will be cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 24:51).
The door of the New Jerusalem
“And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day . . . And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:25, 27).
The last two chapters of Revelation describe the new Jerusalem, the heavenly home of the saved for all eternity. The doors (for there are twelve of them) will be open for the saved but will be closed for the unsaved. By then the decision of every individual regarding salvation will have been made. The chance for change will be over. John continued, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22:11).
And so . . .
When God closes the door of opportunity, the door is closed. Whether that seems fair or unfair, loving or unloving, that is a matter for God and God alone. A person is wise to go through God’s open doors while they are open. I trust you have done that and have come to the Lord Jesus Christ for your personal salvation and eternal life.