Howard Mooney - The Three Heavens and the Three Hells - 1977

"I knew a man in Christ above 14 years ago, (whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell; God knoweth) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth) how that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter." II Corinthians 12:2-4.


The word "Unspeakable" occurs only three times in the Bible. In Chapter 9, verse 15, of this same letter when Paul was describing the wonderful new nature and eternal life given to us through Christ, he said "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."  I Peter 1:8 speaking about the great joy of the life that comes into a child of God, Peter said, "Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now rejoice with joy unspeakable," wonderful something waiting us in the third heaven. The word "unspeak­able" means something too wonderful to describe.


You might ask us what is the greatest difficulty we have in presenting the gospel? It is to find words to convey the wonderfulness of this way. It is too wonderful to describe. That might help you to understand why it is so hard to give your testimony. When you talk to the neighbors about the weather you can talk like a machine gun, but when you talk about the truth, you are tongue tied: You are talking about something too wonderful for the human heart to describe.


We knew a young couple whose little son was born blind. Doctors, advised them it could be corrected by surgery when he was older, so their little son spent the first few years of his life in darkness. He had the surgery and it was successful. Little by little he was exposed to light and finally his mother led him to the hospital window and, for the first time, he looked out on the world beyond him. He said to his mother, "Why didn't you tell me how nice everything is?" She told him that she had often tried to tell him, but he couldn't understand. In trying to describe the beauty of nature, she was talking about something unspeakable. He couldn't understand it until his eyes were opened and he saw it for himself.


As we preach the gospel story, we try to tell you about this wonderful way we are a part of and I believe I can say we have sincerely tried, but it is hard for you to grasp it because we are talking to you about something unspeakable. We know you have to get into it yourself and have your eyes opened to see how wonderful it is. When I think of this new life and what it consists of, all I can do is express the words of Paul by saying, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." When I think of the joy that comes into his, people even though they might be surrounded by a world of evil and go through bitty disappointments. Yet there is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Paul gives us assurance that when we find ourselves in the third heaven, we will find ourselves face to face with something too wonderful to describe.


The Bible tells us there are three heavens. Each one if referred to as paradise. Each one is a little greater than the one before. Where is the FIRST heaven? Most of you would tell me it is right here on earth and we have scripture to back it up. Ephesians 2:6, "And both raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." That is a little foretaste of heaven right here on earth. In the Old Testament, God delivered His word through Moses. The Word was so wonderful to them it was a taste of heaven upon earth. God never intended that men and women would go through the heartaches that average people go through. By following His word and teachings, we can have days on earth as days in Heaven.


We had a very religious woman get saved. She had been disappointed with her exper­ience in religion. It is most sincere people who are the most disappointed in the world. That woman was broken-hearted even though she was the most sincere person I had ever met. We were glad to see her after the first fellowship meeting and she said, "I have often wondered what heaven would be like, but I had a little taste of it this morning." That is what it should be. When a person submits to God, and He puts a new life in him and makes us sit together in heavenly places. That is the paradise we read about in Revelations 2:7, "He that hath a ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."


One of the reasons why this fellowship is a paradise on earth is because Christ, the Tree of Life, is in the midst of us feeding us. This tree bears twelve manner of fruit...fruit in every month. There is never an experience a person goes through but he can turn to Christ and find the answer. When I think of the young teenagers here tonight, they have found something in Christ that feeds them. We don't set down a list of rules or regulations and tell them what they can and cannot do. They are satisfied in Jesus. You can look around and see fathers and mothers bearing the burden in the heat of the day, giving evidence that they also are finding in Christ everything that meets their need. You see older people in this meeting. When everything else in life has let them down, they are still finding in Christ everything that feeds them and meets their need. Is it any wonder that this is a paradise? The Lord said, "I will give him to eat of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God." Christ is in the midst of His people, even in a world of heartaches.


The SECOND heaven or paradise is the place God's people go at death. That is where they are while they are waiting for their reward. One of the reasons they do not go on to their reward at death is because everyone leaves an influence. The Lord will not give them their reward at death. Revelations 14:13, "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, yea saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Able had been dead for thousands of years, but his influence for good was still working. It will never be known this side of eternity the effect of the influence. People, thousands of years later, turned aside after the influence of Cain. I don't know anything that would put a more serious thought on life than the realization of the fact that I am leaving an influence behind. When I die, my influence does not die. Luke 23:43, Jesus said to the thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." That was a greater paradise than the one we are enjoying here.


Paul said in Philemon 1:23, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better." It was far better because if he went to be with Christ, it would mean no more aches, pains, battles, or discouragements in life. Everything we begin to enjoy in Christ, now we can go on to enjoy in a fuller measure. Paul spoke those words when he was a prisoner. Any minute they might come to sever his head from his body and he said as far as he was concerned, they could cut his head off because it would just release him to go on to be with Christ which is far better. The place Larazus found himself, when he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom in Luke 16, was a far better place than down here going through the distress of his body. That paradise in the second heaven is better than the one we are enjoying today.


The THIRD heaven or paradise is the place prepared after we get our reward. I believe most of you know Paul was referring to himself when he said he knew a man in Christ above 14 years ago, etc. If you have dates in your Bible, go back 14 years and it will take you to Acts 14:19 where he was left for dead. Paul revived and sat up in their midst. Fourteen years later he still didn't know what happened then, whether he was unconscious, and God gave him a vision of the body or if he was in the body or not. He said, "Only God knows."  He said he knew this much that at the time this happened he heard unspeakable things and saw things impossible for the human heart to describe. I Corinthians 2:9 says, "But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Through the spirit we have a vision of what it might be, but as he said we have never seen anything to be compared with what he saw while he was caught up to the third heaven.


Paul had traveled a good part of the then known world. He said in all his wanderings he never saw anything to be compared with a single minute of what he saw up there in the third heaven and all the wonderful things he heard--nothing to be compared with it. While it is a paradise to be numbered amongst God's people here on earth, in a world of grief, selfishness and bitterness on every side, in the midst of all that but it cannot be compared with what it will be in the third heaven where we will leave this old body full of aches, pains, and distresses and go on to be with Christ. It will be still greater paradise for God's people when the books are opened and we enter into and enjoy what we are labouring for now.


That is just half the story


There are also THREE HELLS. There are two sides to the gospel story. God said through Moses to the people, "Behold I set before you this day a blessing and a curse. A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and a curse if you will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day and go after other gods, which ye have not known." Deuteronomy 11:26-28. A blessing will come into your life if ye obey. If ye rebel the curse of God will come into the picture.


One thing that makes this so serious is that the gospel brings men and women to the place where there are only two things in the picture. Listen to this and remember it if you don't remember anything else. Sometimes people sit in gospel meetings and get a vision of God's will for their life. They are not willing for it. Not willing to give up something--too proud to humble themselves. They think after the meetings are over they will go back to the old ditch, but I want to tell you, you will never go back to the old ditch again. It is utterly impossible for you to go back as if nothing has happened.


When a person sits under the sound of the gospel, he doesn't go back. He goes forward either to enjoy the blessing of God, or His cursing. It is not merely a question "Do you want a Blessing?" but "Do you want to face the cursing of God right here?"  These are not my words. I am not crying "Wolf, wolf" to you tonight. The Lord is saying to you, "Behold I set before you a blessing or a curse." As sure as there is a blessing to gain, there is a cursing to shun right here on earth. James 3:6, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell." Proverbs 15:24 "The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." Bringing into their members the fire of hell right here on this earth.


I was talking to a woman in the last stages to tuberculosis. Looking into my eyes she said, "Howard, they talk about people dying and going to hell. I want to tell you, you don't have to die to be in hell. I am going through hell right now." Just before I went in to see her, her husband had brought her three little girls in to see her for the last time. He couldn't take them into the room. They looked in through a big window at their mother and cried their hearts out, and she looked out and cried her heart out for them, but they were separated forever. But that isn't what made hell on earth for her. A few years before, she remembered sitting with her parents in meetings like this when she was 17 years of age, full of life...going to have a good time and later on she would think about serving God. She went into the world, got married, and she and her husband lived the world up to last of their ability. The doctor said treatment failed because of the dissipated life she had lived and she had no resistance to fight the disease. The reason she was going through hell was that she realized if only she had obeyed the gospel, everything would have been so different.


You don't have to die to be in hell. Every minute somebody is attempting suicide because of a hell so great there is no desire to live. They would rather die than face another day of it. A hell because of their choices. With their tongues, they made the wrong choice.


The SECOND hell is a place of torment people go while waiting their reward. II Peter 2:4, "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment." Like a person in a condemned row--he hasn't received his execution yet, but there is no escaping it. There is no getting around the fact. He knows that. That is the place the rich man found himself in Luke 16, "In hell he lifted up his eyes." His influence was still working for evil upon the earth. He found himself in the place of torment. There is no escaping it.


Maybe you believe after death you will have another chance to get right. If there is any doubt in your mind think of the words in Luke 16:20, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed so that they which pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence." At death, between the person and heaven there is a great gulf fixed.


Then there is ANOTHER HELL the Bible speaks of in Mark 9:43 where Jesus said, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off, it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands and go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched, where the worm dieth not the fire is not quenched." There is a difference between that verse and II Peter 2:14 where it says "reserved in chains." This is the THIRD hell. The fire shall never be quenched and the worm never dies. I don't know of any time when Jesus poured out His heart to a needy world like He did in those verses. If there is anything that you hold onto--CUT IT OFF. It might cost you as much as if you were to cut off your right hand. It is better than to end up in a place where you will know what suffering really is. Nothing can be compared with the suffering in hell that you will suffer.


If there is anything you are holding onto that is keeping you from giving God your very best CUT IT OFF. It is far better to suffer a little loss and get right than to one day realize what it is to really suffer. If the way you are walking is hindering you, cut it off. It might be the way of pleasure, pride, false religious ways--CUT IT OFF. That might cost you as much as if you were to cut off your right foot. He said that it is well worth it. These are the words of Jesus. It is far better to get right with God than to go on in the way you are going. No suffering a person goes through to get right with Cod could be compared with the suffering in an eternal Hell.


If your eye, your aim, or ambition in life is hindering you, pluck it out. It might cost you as much as if you naturally plucked out your eye. It is still worth it. Don't let your goal in life hinder you from getting saved. It is far better to give up your plans and aims than to continue in the way you are going and end up in hell. Those are not my words--they are the words of Jesus.


Have you people felt like a miserable worm? That expression originated in the Bible. "Fear not, thou worm Jacob." The reason the Lord used that language was those people at that time felt they had made an utter mess of their lives and the Lord described their feelings perfectly. Jesus spoke of hell as a place where the worm dieth not. What will make hell to the average person is feeling that "I am here because I am nothing but a miserable worm in spite of Calvary. I have persisted in taking my own way and here I am in hell because I am nothing but a worm." That regret will never cease. The Lord doesn't want to leave you in that condition.


"Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One Of Israel." Isaiah 41:14. There might be some of you here tonight who feel that you are nothing but a miserable worm. You have made a mess of you life. You feel you are not even worthy to sit here amongst God's people. Fear not He can still help you. Regardless of what position you may find yourself in tonight, the Lord can still help you. The Lord stands beseeching you appealingly.


We would encourage you to do something while you can. If you wait until the line is crossed, your worm will never die. The burning regrets will never cease. Can you remember that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." When Christ came to die, it was with this in mind that God does not want you to end up in the THIRD HELL where the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.


While God is extending His arms to you, we would encourage you to do something about it. Don't put it off any longer. Don't walk in the wrong path any longer. No matter what it means or costs, submit to God now. He will take over and the past will be forgiven. New life can be yours. Tonight you can be in the paradise of God before this meeting is over. We would encourage you to do so no matter what it means or costs.