Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hell? Yes

I will not form the habit of replying to commentary left on my Blog, but Mr. Rick Lannoye addressed a doctrinal issue that must be answered to. His comment is under “The True God and Eternal Life, Part 4” if anyone wishes to read it. I present my rebuttal on the matter.

I am saddened that ministers and teachers wish to avoid the reality of an eternal Hell strictly on the basis of how abhorrent the thought of it is. Scripture is the cleansing water that conforms a man to think more like his God; we don't drag the pure word of God through the muddied streams of our sentimental reasoning. To begin with, there are several fatal errors in the Christian faith when Hell is removed as a doctrine. First, where do the wicked who reject Christ's salvation go? Only through faith in Christ is eternal life given, and therefore only those with faith in Christ as their Savior will enter Heaven, by virtue of our Savior's merit. Second, why did Jesus come to die on the cross to begin with? We know what He was saving us for, but what, pray-tell, was He saving us from? If there is no Hell then there is no danger of judgment or necessity to accept the salvation found exclusively in Christ. The meaning of the cross becomes empty. Third, if as suggested that the Bible was tampered with, and the doctrine of Hell was successfully smuggled in (on the basis of unfounded insinuation at that), then we have effectively rendered the Bible untrustworthy in all matters; it becomes a book of fallible human wisdom after all, not the inspired and singular word of God, given to mankind through the Holy Spirit. If something was indeed added by fallible men, how much more? If some words of Christ were fabricated, who arbitrates the genuine sayings from the false? The Jesus Seminar excels at “voting” to judge which words of Christ are authentic or not. I reject this notion, otherwise I would have to reject a Savior whose message has been garbled over course of time by parties vested with perverse interests.

The Bible stands or falls as a cohesive whole. There is no evidence for believing that anyone was tampering with the Bible. Manuscripts flourished across the whole known world by the beginning of the second century. Was everyone of them tampered with? No living generation of Christians, knowing God's word would have accepted such lies. Unless the doctrine came from a genuine source such as Christ, and passed from Him to the Apostles, it would have been spurned by the early church. Try inventing a Christian doctrine as “truth,” then assert that this truth has always been taught in the church. Anyone could look to a generation prior (not to mention their own) to disprove you. This accusation goes straight to the heart of the real Author of Scripture: the Holy Spirit. Could not His divine superintendence prevent this atrocity from entering His word? “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” 2nd Peter 1:20. “[The Holy Spirit] will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you,” John 14:26.

“And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire is not quenched, they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh,” Isaiah 66:24. Jesus refers to this passage three times in Mark 9:42-48, in direct reference to, “Hell, the fire that shall never be quenched.”
“You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your holy one to see corruption,” Psalm 16:10. Peter quotes this passage's fulfillment in Christ when he says, “His [Jesus'] soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption,” Acts 2:31. Peter differentiates between the soul of a man (being in Hell) and the body (laying in corruption.)
This agrees with the clear statement that Christ tasted death for everyone, Hebrews 2:9. When Jesus “tasted death” He was on the cross, suffering the conscious agony of the Father's wrath being poured out on Him while He hung there alone, separated from the Father in fellowship. This is the literal essence of Hell; it has nothing to do with physical burning, but a thirsting after God that will never be slaked. Christ conquered death so we do not have to suffer it, John 8:51.

I will cite several passages dealing with this topic:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell,” Matthew 5:29.

“If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell,” Matthew 5:30.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell,” Matthew 10:28.

“But I say to you [Chorazin and Bethsaida], it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you,” Matthew 11:22.

“Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” Matthew 23:33.

“Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels...These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,” Matthew 25:41, 46.

“That servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few,” Luke 12:47-48.

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!...Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division,” Luke 12:49, 51.

“When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there until you have paid the very last mite,” Luke 12:58-59.

“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” Luke 13:3.

“The beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades...he cried and said...'I am tormented in this flame,'” Luke 16:22-24.

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” John 3:18.

“These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” 2nd Thessalonians 1:9.

“God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down into hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment,” 2nd Peter 2:4.

“These are...wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever,” Jude 1:12-13.

“I have the keys of Hades and of Death,” Revelation 1:18.

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God...Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works...anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast in to the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:12-13, 15.

Judgment and eternal punishment are spoken of so many times throughout the gospels and the epistles, as well as Revelation, if what is suggested is true about smuggling in false doctrine, then we must confess the Bible is entirely and hopelessly compromised. Yes, Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost, but for those who will not receive the gift of eternal life in His name, He becomes their Judge, because they would not have Him as their Savior and Lord, John 5:22, 27. Who would throw God's word into such suspicion? Our sympathy to the lost should be exercised in evangelizing them! Lying to them to salve a conscience dead in sins is not the answer. Furthermore, anyone preaching an altered gospel comes under the wrath of God:

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed,” Galatians 1:8-9.
“If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book,” Revelation 22:19.
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar,” Proverbs 30:5-6.
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you,” Deuteronomy 4:2.

Did Jesus oppose Hell? Of course! That's why He came to die on the cross for our sins! Otherwise, why did the Son of God need to suffer so? Our sins caused spiritual death, an eternity of separation from our God; the Son rectified that when He paid the demands of divine justice. God's mercy was fully at work on the cross when He spared not His own Son for our sakes. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32. The key being that it must be “with Christ” that we receive reconciliation and eternal life. The argument here is not with men holding a doctrine, but with God who pronounced a just judgment on the guilty. Sinners saved by grace deserve Hell every bit as much as those who will enter it upon death. All that separates us from them is which side of the cross we stand on. Are we dead to sin and death and alive in Christ? Or are we still ruled by the the flesh, enemies of God and children of wrath, Ephesians 2:1-3? “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory?” Romans 9:22-23.

Christ's command to preach the gospel to all creatures is our call to rise up, be a savor of life unto life, and save men from their sins! The need is urgent, and those who are not with Christ will be scattered abroad, Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23. We make a cardinal error when we bring our fallible reason in to adjust Scripture to our liking. We can't be preferential, nor are we at liberty to pick and choose which portions of Scripture suit our palette and which we cast out. It is all the Bible or no Bible, just like it is all Christ or no Christ. Jesus taught the reality of Hell with all its terrible implications, but He was warning us of it! His teachings on it were important because He was reasoning with us to accept life over death and God's will over our own. Planting seeds of doubt regarding the validity and authority of the Bible is all this teaching does.

It is clear that our human judgment is too finite to validate or refute God's word. We don't stand as a judge of the word; we are conformed to the mind of Christ by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. One cannot emphasize love to the exclusion of God's holiness and justice. God loves the sinner but hates sin; if the sinner refuses to relinquish their sin, then God is just in meting out wrath. God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but the wicked choose their eternal destiny by their adamant rejection of God's revealed will. Either way, God is just in all that He does, Genesis 19:25. When He destroyed Sodom, the Sodomites received the wages of their sin. When He saved Lot, Lot received undeserved mercy by God's sovereign grace. Are we wiser than God?

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts,” Isaiah 55:8-9.

“Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind (the mind of Christ); and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you,” Philippians 3:15.

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"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2nd Timothy 3:16.

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Joshua 24:15

All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.