By Billy Graham | First Published: September 28, 2015
The following is an excerpt from chapter 21 of Billy Graham’s final book, Where I Am.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. —John 3:16
That where I am, there you may be also. —John 14:3
“I don’t think I would be afraid to die if I knew what to expect after death,” said a young man with an incurable disease. Evidently he had not heard of what God “has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
This young man had within him the fear of death. By nature, we fear the unknown. But the Bible says that the grave is not the end for anyone but rather the beginning of eternity:
Transgressors and sinners …
Who forsake the Lord shall be consumed …
Both will burn together,
And no one shall quench them (Isaiah 1:28, 31)
This is not God’s will but a consequence of human choice.
Get your own subscription, or renewal, or bless someone by giving Decision Magazine as a gift.
The child of God has no need to fear death. Why? God has not left us with the spirit of hopelessness, for He is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). Death, for the Christian, is overcome by the reality of hope—Heaven.
We see this assurance in John, the great “Where I am” book of the Bible. Jesus had told His disciples He was going away; He was preparing them for His death. But they could not fathom what He was telling them. They had walked with Him and fellowshiped together. He was their Teacher and Friend; they were His students and His companions.
Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now” (John 13:36).
Then Jesus spoke some of the most treasured words in Scripture:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:1-4).
This was a revelation to the disciples. It was as if Jesus had said to them, “We have no lasting home on earth, but My Father’s house is a home where we will be together forever.”
This is a picture painted with words—for He is the Word. A heavenly home is described in the Greek as a “mansion.” It doesn’t mean an imposing house but rather a permanent dwelling—an eternal abode. Jesus told this little band of men the way to reach this wonderful place: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
As humans we place a great deal of value on our homes. Amid all the changes that will come, when we no longer have an earthly home, we have a promise—we will be with Him forever.
Heaven seems a mystery to many people. They wonder if Heaven is above the lofty clouds, or if Heaven will come down to earth. When I am asked, “Where is Heaven?” I simply answer: Heaven is where Jesus is. He told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there you may be also!” So when my earthly life has ended and you wonder where I’ve gone, this will be the answer: I will be with Jesus—that’s where I am.
What about you? Do you know where you will be when you step into eternity? The ultimate destination is not found in a slick vacation package. The ultimate destination is Heaven—found in Jesus Christ. Nothing can transcend this wonderful place. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
Nicodemus was a Pharisee who had heard of Jesus and was interested in what He had to say, so he went looking for Him. We don’t know where he found Jesus, for He had no earthly home. “Foxes have holes,” He said, “and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). But the Bible says that if we seek Him, He may be found (Isaiah 55:6, Matthew 7:7). And, sure enough, Nicodemus found Jesus in the dark of night.
“Rabbi,” he said, “we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
Jesus changed the conversation from the miracles of which Nicodemus inquired to the miracle of a new life in Christ and said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:6-7). Nicodemus’ reaction was filled with doubt and unbelief, and he exclaimed, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9).
Jesus answered this leading Pharisee with another question. “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (John 3:10).
Nicodemus was stunned. If Christ had said this to Zacchaeus or the woman at the well, it might make sense, but Jesus spoke to a professor of theology. And He was saying, “It isn’t enough, Nicodemus. You must be born again.”
This term born again has fascinated people for centuries. It simply means “born from above”—born into the family of God. We are all God’s creation, but we are not all God’s children. Those who are born only once (physical birth) will experience physical and spiritual death, what the Bible calls the second death. But those who are born twice (physically and spiritually) will die only a physical death because they will be resurrected to life eternal. This is why Jesus came.
Nicodemus could only see human life; Jesus was speaking of spiritual life. What Nicodemus needed was a new heart. Surely he would have read the Scripture, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). No matter how hard Nicodemus worked to live right, he fell short of being born again.
This was a lot for Nicodemus to take in. Imagine what must have been going through his mind when he heard Jesus say,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
The Bible does not record what happened after their meeting; and if the Book of John ended there, we might not know what became of Nicodemus. But John 7 tells of a debate that later arose among the Jewish leaders about Jesus, for He had told them also that He was going away, and “where I am you cannot come” (John 7:33-34). Jesus knew the chief priests were planning to seize Him, but He spoke of returning to His heavenly home. Then the Pharisees asked one another if any of them believed Jesus, and Scripture says that Nicodemus spoke up for Him (John 7:47-51). Jesus’ words had illuminated Nicodemus’ darkened heart.
We don’t see Nicodemus again until he appears after Christ’s death on the cross, bringing a mixture of spices to use in preparing Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39). Most of Christ’s followers had fled, but here we see Nicodemus caring for Him. It seems that even in death’s shadow, Nicodemus had eternity on his mind.
But as we’ve seen, many people never think of eternity. As a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel, I am always grieved to have to interrupt a marvelous picture, such as eternal life in Heaven, to talk about another eternal place that Jesus calls Hell. It has no similarities to what is typically called home, nor is Hell a resting place, a holding place, or a graveyard. Hell is a burning inferno.
More than the description, I want to point out the greatest darkness of Hell—it is a place where Jesus is not. Jesus said, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going” (John 8:21, NLT). This is the great anguishing nightmare—to be eternally separated from the Son of God. It is unimaginable. For this reason alone, to be in Hell is the most terrible of all judgments.
There are some people who actually believe that if they end up in Hell, they’ll get used to it. After all, they say, the devil has provided a great deal of pleasure for them while on earth, so how bad can it be?
Let me tell you; the devil is not in charge of Hell, nor is it his headquarters. Satan is the “prince of this world” (John 16:11, KJV) and has taken up residence in many hearts. But He knows what the end is for him. He made his choice long ago and wants to take a world of people with him to Hell, where he will serve out his eternal sentence.
The Bible says that the everlasting fire was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Jesus said, “I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18). The devil does not own Hell. It is not his home—it is his judgment.
A mother and son once lived in a miserable attic. Years before, she had married against her parents’ wishes and had gone with her husband to live in a strange land. But her husband soon died, and she managed with great difficulty to secure the bare necessities. The boy’s happiest times were when his mother told of her father’s house in the old country, a place with grassy lawns, enormous trees, wide porches, and delicious meals. The child longed to live there.
One day the postman knocked at the door with a letter. The woman recognized her father’s handwriting and with trembling fingers opened the envelope that held a check and a slip of paper with two words: “Come home.”
A similar experience will come to all who know Christ. Someday you will receive this brief message: “The Father says come home.”
Those who know Christ are not afraid to die. Death is not the grim reaper. Death to the Christian is “going home.” No one who has died in the Lord would ever want to come back to this life. To depart and be with Christ, Paul said, “is far better” (Philippians 1:23). The Bible says that we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, seeking a homeland, a place prepared for us by God (Hebrews 11:16) where the Lord will receive us into “an everlasting home” (Luke 16:9). I have never known a man or woman to receive Christ and ever regret it.
Perhaps you have never bent your will to God’s will and been born again. You can do that now, for He desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Right now you can make your decision for Christ and start on the road that leads to a heavenly home.
Jesus said in essence, “You can be where I am, or you can be where I am not.” I pray you settle life’s most important question: Where will you spend eternity?
My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going (John 8:14).