Saturday, January 10, 2009

As Sure As Hell


Several months ago I was sitting somewhere and overheard a conversation between two people in which one of them said to the other, "It sure as hell does." That got me thinking, how many people will casually use a phrase like that and never understand the reality of what they have just said. Hell is real, and people need to be warned about its existence and that unless they repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ that is where they will spend eternity. But we don't warn them. We work and we shop and we play next to people everyday who are perishing - and they don't even know it.

Yes, hell is real. And if we believed that (like we say we do) we would be telling people about it; we would be pleading with the people that we love to come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. But we don't hear much about hell anymore in our churches, all we hear about is that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. This is tragic; while we are hearing about the wonderful plan God has for us our friends and families (and people we don't even know) are dying, and they are going to hell!

And since we don't hear much about it anymore, listen to what Jonathan Edwards had to say on the subject:

To help your conception of what hell is
Jonathan Edwards

"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn--and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire!"
Matthew 3:12

"They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"
Matthew 13:42

"Then He will say to those on the left--Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!"
Matthew 25:41

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell--where the fire never goes out!"
Mark 9:43

"He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!"
Luke 3:17

"I am in agony in this fire!"
Luke 16:24
"Those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire!"
Jude 1:7

To help your conception of what hell is--imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven--or into the midst of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire--as the heat is greater. Imagine also, that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full as a bright coal of fire, all the while full of quick sense. What horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! If it were to be measured by the hour-glass, how long would the glass seem to be running! And after you had endured it for one minute, how unbearable would it be to you--to think that you had yet to endure the other fourteen minutes!

But what would be the effect on your soul--if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment to the full--for twenty-four hours! And how much greater would be the effect--if you knew you must endure it for a whole year! And how vastly greater still--if you knew you must endure it for a thousand years! O then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you knew--that you must bear it forever and ever! That there would be no end--that after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than it ever was; and that you would never, never be delivered!

But your torment in Hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents! How then will the heart of a poor creature sink under it! How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable, must the sinking of the soul be in such a case!

"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15
And here is what Arthur Pink had to say:
"Such, in brief, is the portion awaiting the lost - eternal separation from the Fount of all goodness; everlasting punishment; torment of soul and body; endless existence in the Lake of Fire, in association with the vilest of the vile; every ray of hope excluded; utterly crushed and overwhelmed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God!"
Arthur Pink, Eternal Punishment
But we have more than just the words of Jonathan Edwards and A.W. Pink; we have the words of Jesus Himself, who said:
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’
Luke 16:19-32
Some people teach that this is just a parable, but in no other parable did Jesus ever name the the people involved and here we are told that this story involves a poor man named Lazarus who had died, an unnamed rich man who had also died, and Abraham. I believe that Jesus named Lazarus here because the people that He was telling this to knew who Lazarus was.

Likewise, they probably also knew the rich man, so why is his name not given? Could it be that in hell there is no longer the need for individuality since the people there are in complete isolation (notice that the rich man never makes reference to anyone else in this place with him). That is just speculation on my part, but look at what Jesus does say about this man: he is in torment; he could see the comfort of God's people; he still had his senses (he begged for water to cool his tongue); he was in anguish; he described the place he was in as being in a flame;he was aware of his past life; and he understood why he was there and what it would take to keep others from coming there.

Imagine your family and friends in a place like this. And not just for a day - For Ever! The Bible teaches that it is appointed for man to die once and then judgment (Hebrews 9:27) - there are no second chances. Notice in the passage above that the rich man is told that there is a great gulf fixed between the place where he is and the place where Abraham and Lazarus are and that no one can cross over it from where he is to where they are. that means when someone dies their eternity is fixed.

Heaven is forever, but so is hell, and we need to warn people. The Bible says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:16-17
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Romans 10:9-10
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:13
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)
This is the Gospel -the good news - Jesus is God in human form who came to this world to die and take upon Himself the wrath of God for the sins that we committed. He was buried, and three days later He physically rose from the dead. If you repent of your sins and place your faith in Him you will be saved.But we have to let people know that if they reject Jesus Christ they will spend eternity in hell; the good news of the Gospel is freely offered to everyone, but you have to repent and come to Christ.

Those who do not repent will end up just like the rich man in the passage above - "as sure as hell."
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2 comments:

The Rambling Taoist said...

How can "God" be wrathful? Wrath is an extreme form of anger and anger is derived from fear, anxiety and a loss of control. If God is supposedly all powerful, all knowing and present at all times, then there would be nothing that could frighten him, cause him to be anxious or feel out of control.

In reality, Christianity contradicts itself. If "God" can indeed be wrathful (angry), then he ain't perfect. If he's perfect, then there is nothing that could evoke anger.

Chris said...

I completely disagree. If you love then you have to also hate; for example, if you love children then you have to hate child abuse, and wrath against a child abuser is the natural result of the hatred of the abuse, because you love children.

In the same way God is holy and as a result of his holiness He hates sin and the natural result of that hatred is wrath toward it. The gospel is simply this: Jesus Christ, who is God in human form, came to earth and died on the cross taking upon Himself the wrath that our sin deserved. Three days later He rose from the dead to prove that what He said was true. Now we have a choice: we can either place our trust and faith in the sacrifice that He made on our behalf, or we can reject it and take the wrath our sin deserves upon ourselves, and the place that happens is in hell.