Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oh Hell!

Little did I know when I preached a series on Heaven and Hell two years ago that Hell was going to soon be in the news big time? Hell! Recently Bill O’Reilly on Fox and Martin Basher on MSNBC, even good morning America has discussed it! How would you like to wake up to THAT conversation?

  First let me say this is not a response to Rob Bell's Book, Love Wins But his book did give rise to this discussion. So consider this a brief polemic on the doctrine of eternal punishment. (Justology?)

  Next let me say 's a given that not a single liberal theologian believes in any type of traditional view of Hell. Also, most conservative theologians believe in some version of eternal punishment. There are a handful of conservative theologians who believe that Hell ultimately destroys, or annihilates, the soul and it ceases to exist. But that’s not the same as saying there is no Hell, or that Hell is here on earth, or that someday all the people in Hell will be allowed into Heaven, or that all Hell will break loose! (I just added the last one for fun.)

   Then let me say, Nobody in their right mind ‘likes’ the idea of Hell! It’s a horrible, terrible concept. Eternal suffering? Are you kidding? If it is put to a vote, I’d be tempted to vote against it! And if you ask, what about Hitler or Osama bin laden, I’d say I don’t think they’ll be in Heaven but I don’t care if they are in torture forever. Let them be annihilated. I’m ok with that! (But not too quickly, I mean as long as I'm voting.)

You see our thinking wants to say, there’s enough trouble here on earth for some people, let’s 
just say Hell is here on earth and be done with it. OK? Is that alright?

No, it’s not alright. Because Jesus says something different. And I’m always going to go with what Jesus said, above human ideas and foolish daydreaming.

   Under Attack: The doctrine of Hell.  Jonathan Edwards wrote of hell: This doctrine is indeed awful and dreadful. It is dreadful to think of it, but yet tis what God, the eternal God, who made us and who has us soul and body in his hands, has abundantly declared unto us, so that so sure as God is true there will absolutely be no end to the misery of hell.
Listen to John MacArthur on hell: This truth of eternal punishment to come on those who do not believe the gospel …is a painful message to preach. … It’s not only a painful message to preach, it is a painful message to hear. It is a painful message to process. It is a painful truth to apply, but it is biblical

So what did Jesus say on this subject? 15 times Jesus referenced Hell. 6 times Jesus talks about eternal fire and the fire of punishment. Jesus talks about Hell more than anyone. So if you don’t believe in Hell you’ll find yourself arguing with Jesus, not me.  

     Mat 25:41  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the
     eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ...46  And these will go away into eternal
     punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
    Mar 9:43  And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life
     crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 

According to Jesus
Hell is outer darkness (Mat 22:13) where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat 8:12). 
Hell’s a fiery furnace (Mat13:42, 50) unquenchable fires (Mk 9:48-49). Hell is spiritual destruction (Mat 10:28) where there are endless torments (Lu 16:23-24).  
In Short: Hell is a horrible place with agony, terror, and anguish.
 Some people still say, “I don’t care, I just don’t believe in eternal punishment.” To be consistent then you can't believe in eternal Heaven. In Matt 5:46 (above) Jesus uses the same word ‘aionos’ which means eternal, to describe both of them. If you don’t believe in an eternal Hell, then how can you believe in an eternal heaven?

   English speaking people have a history of stories ending with “And they all lived happily ever after.” I read stories like that to all 3 of my girls as the were growing up. Usually it sounded like this: "...and they all lived happily ever after, now go to sleep.
Daughter, "Did the Prince and Princess have babies?"
"Yes, go to sleep."
Daughter, "What are their names?"
"Good ni-ight."
"Can I have a drink?"  (but I digress)

You know what we call those kind of stories? Fairy tales
And anyone who says that God is going to make it all work out, no one will be punished forever and everyone lives happily ever after…its a fairy tale!
Some say the whole idea of Heaven is a Fairy Tale. Understandable, but I'm basing this on the words of Christ Jesus. 

Doesn’t Jesus say (Mat 10:28) that the soul will be destroyed in Hell? Yes He does, that word comes from a root meaning mar, punish or ruin. There‘s another word that means disintegrate, to demolish. Jesus uses that for the Temple, not the soul.

Part of our problem is we are fair-minded Americans. We think we are more fair minded than God, or God is more fair minded than the Bible suggests. 
For instance, If I punch my friend Mark in the nose, he would be justified to repay me with the same. Or he might call the law. But if he does the smart thing he’ll get me calmed down and then I’ll feel guilty and apologize and he can hold this over my head the rest of my life. 

BUT, what if I walk up to President Obama and punch him in the nose. Before he gets a chance to forgive me or invite me to a beer summit, I’ll be body slammed by 3 or 4 Secret service men, handcuffed taken to jail and I won’t get out for a long time. And that is as it should be, He's the President!
In other words, the punishment fits the crime. Now Rob Bell, a pastor who wrote a book questioning the reality of Hell, might ask, why would God punish for eternity someone who only sinned for 70 or 80 years, and in fact is guilty of one primary sin, that of rejecting Jesus. Will God punish that person FOREVER? Wouldn’t God make the punishment fit the crime? Surely the wicked will be punished; but forever? All I can say to this logic is this:
     Any sin against the infinitely holy, infinitely loving, and infinitely JUST God is a crime of eternity. Not a crime of 70 or 80 years but a crime of infinite proportion
You want to deny Hell? Go ahead and deny the Abject, Fearful, Holiness of God. 

And when you begin to think of the eternal nature of Hell, don’t picture your loved ones or friends going there… picture yourself. What do you deserve?    

     I don’t believe you can scare people into heaven, but they need to hear the truth, that’s why Jesus warned us of Hell.

And I'm glad that Jesus is the Seeker of the Lost!

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