The Terrors of Hell – Part 3 – Is God just?

Golgotha

Is God just in damning men eternally to hell?

Don’t pass over this question, because this is one of the hardest questions the Believer and non-believer will ever wrestle with.  I admittedly struggle with it myself, because I know people that, unless God pours out His mercy, will spend eternity in hell.  It really comes back to a fairness question in most people’s minds.

One of God’s attributes is justice and we can’t have a complete God without Him being just.  I will not be able to completely cover this subject in one post and if you are bothered by this writing I’d encourage you to dig deeper, this writing is meant to arouse sleeping souls, and stir up Believers to preach the good news.  Without the remedy of Christ we are all without hope.

As many question the validity of a place of judgment, Love asks, “Is God just in damning men eternally who sin temporarily in this life?”  Even if someone lives only a brief time on earth, Love claims that such divine action is just for the following reasons.  First, our punishment is not based on the amount of time that we sin, but on the fact that we sin, as when a thief is sentenced to prison for much longer than then the time it took him to break into a house.  Second, we commit sin against an infinite God and so deserve infinite punishment, just as the penalty for striking a public person, such as a prince, is much greater than for striking an ordinary man in the street.  Third, if we lived forever we would sin forever, or “as long as” we can, while we are alive.  Fourth, we continue to sin in hell even after we leave earth, and so further provoke the wrath of God.  Finally, even a momentary lapse into sin shows that we reject the infinite kindness of God and so deserve infinite punishment.  That momentary sin justly brings eternal punishment ought to cause us to avoid “slight thoughts” of sin against an infinite and just God who imposes such torments, and any accusations of severity against Him for imposing them.  Apart from His secret work of grace in salvation, He may even choose to do so in an infant who lives “but a minute in this world.” [1]

Most people will reject this.  Most people that consider themselves Christians will reject this, and we must not shrink from the discussion.  It will be unpopular.  The question will always turn to the fairness of God.  Friends, we do not want fair, we want grace and mercy.  If God dealt in “fairness” we’d be without hope.  It wasn’t fair that Christ suffered the wrath of God, the just for the unjust.

In connection with just in general comes a question related to the impartiality and universality of judgment; “Will most men and women in the world be tormented in hell?”  Love believes that most will, and his confirmation of it he consider to be “one of the most dismal Doctrines” that a pastor can preach.  First, most will go to hell because most do not look to Christ to deliver them from such a torment—whether Jews, Muslims, heathen, or Papists.  Second, even among those who “profess Jesus Christ,” many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:14), as most are “either profane in life, or hypocrites in heart.” [2]

Love cites four additional reasons that most are destined for hell and in conclusion says “If most are to be damned, we must see the folly of allowing the opinions of the majority to lead us in life and should try our hearts to know whether we are of the few that will be saved.  We should not be offended at the “fewness of the number of believers,” but lament over the majority that will face such torments, rouse ourselves from delusions of the great number of believers in the world, and not hold “any ill thoughts against the mercy of God” that most men perish. [3]

These words are painful for me to write, and humbling for me to consider.  Many people that I know, many people that I love, many people that you know and love will spend their eternity under the wrath of God.  Anything good we have now will be vanquished and only misery and torment will remain.   No waking up the next day and a better day is on the horizon, only pain and suffering.

Today there is hope if you are in Christ.  Are you a new creation?  Have you turned to Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sin?  Don’t fight against God and despise His truth, but turn to Him and be saved.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38

Kevin

  1. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 280-85. Cf. WCF, 10.3 and the Canons of Dort, 1.17.
  2. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 286-300.
  3. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 300-304.

The Terrors of Hell – Part 2

KnockatTheDoor

This morning I was on my way home from Starbucks and heard a man on the radio discussing Jesus standing at the door of our hearts and He wanted us to let Him in.  To this man’s credit, it was being used as a poor method of evangelism, and it was said, “Did you notice there is no handle on the outside of the door, the handle is on the inside and you must open it up.”

Friends that is NOT biblically accurate, nor is it good evangelism!

The path to salvation is to understand you are DEAD in your sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1); you are without hope and headed toward hell.  The wide road of modern day evangelism has a poor effeminate Jesus sitting around with His head in His hands, just gently hoping you will make a decision for Him.

Today we are going to look at what awaits those that do not turn from their sin, fall to their face and beg for mercy and repentance.  This may seem cruel or harsh to some, but this is biblical and repeating a prayer and incantation of a method is not only inaccurate, it is damning.

Some may read this today and mock the idea of hell and just as in the days of the Puritans preaching on hell was unpopular.  It’s unpopular, because man loves the darkness and he desires to live in blissful ignorance, rather than face the reality of his eternal soul.  Let’s look at some teaching about hell from the Puritans.  All quotations come from A Puritan Theology (2012 – Beeke & Jones)

Is There a Hell?

[John] Bunyan call attention to Luke 16:23, “And in hell [the rich man] lift up his eyes, being in torments.” From this phrase he concludes that “there is a hell for souls to be tormented in when this life is ended…after he was dead and buried.”

He denies that Christ uses the word figuratively to represent the grave or some concept of torment “in this life.”  He then warns those who make a “mock” of preachers who tell them of hell that they will “find such an hell after this life is ended, that thou wilt not get out of again for ever and ever.” [1]

This is not something to be mocked, as so many do.  We all must consider this reality if there is hope for salvation, and Believers must continue to live in holiness, to make their call and election sure (1 Peter 1:10).

Why Must There Be a Hell?

First, “because of the filthy nature of sin,” as sin against an infinite God, necessitating proportionate punishment in the world to come.  Second, because Christ did not satisfy the justice of God for the wicked, who must therefore bear the wrath of God themselves in hell.  Third, the terrors of conscience that afflict the wicked in their dying days “demonstrate that there is a time of torments to be endured.”[2]

When you consider the price the Lord Jesus Christ paid on the cross, that He endured the wrath of God and drank it down fully, you must realize there is a cost to sin.  No matter what you think of your sin, or how small you believe your sin might be, God views it as vile and nasty, and His justice demands payment.  The “good news” is only for those that understand this statement.  The question today is “do I understand?”

What is Hell?

This place in which “the bodies and souls of wicked men are tormented” can be described by the following characteristics from Scripture: unquenchable fire, never extinguished (Luke 3:17); a furnace of fire (Matt, 13:42), recalling Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace (Dan. 3:21-22), where only the godly were not affected; a lake of fire (Rev. 19:20),  with an abundance of torments as the plentiful waters of a lake; eternal fire (Jude 7), with everlasting torment; outer darkness (Matt. 22:13), where we are “deprived of the light of God’s countenance”; the blackness of forever (Jude 13), as a place of terror that ought to cause men to tremble now; chains of darkness (2 Peter 2:4), referring to its binding nature and the impossibility of escape; the damnation of hell (Matt. 23:33), from which none will escape; this place of torment (Luke 16:28), a “dreadful expression” for what takes place there; the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10), as the wrath of God expressed there; prison (1 Peter 3:19), referring to the way the pre-incarnate Christ, through the ministry of Noah, preached to men who are now imprisoned in hell; Tophet (Isa 30:33), referring to the fire of the god Molech, into which children were cast as sacrifices and from which shrieking and howling were heard; the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:1), “out of which you shall never come”, the second death (Rev 2:11); destruction (Matt. 7:13); everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46); and corruption (Gal. 6:8), as the reaped for “sowing to the flesh.”[3]

hell

I have literally been squirming in my seat as I quote this writing and consider the Scripture that has been referenced.  This doctrine is forever and “Hell has No Exits” (Leonard Ravenhill).  If you are a non-believer please consider this today.   Hell is not a place where you will play cards with your friends.  Hell is devoid of “anything” you can ever take pleasure in.

The torment will never end.  It will go on forever and ever and ever…  Does that scare you, because it should?  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

I beg with you today if you are a Believer to consider who in your family or your friends doesn’t understand this?  You might be their only hope.  Tell them today about this terrifying doctrine.  Urge them to repent and be reconciled to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Part 3 we will discuss “Is God is Just in Damning Men Eternally?”

 

Kevin


[1] John Bunyan, The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan, ed. Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976-94), 1:246-47, 261, 266, 267.

[2] Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 226-227

[3] Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 230-34.

The Terrors of Hell – Part 1

dark road to nowhere

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I’ve dabbled in the Puritans for a while since being saved, and as I read Puritan writers, I find myself wanting more.  I don’t believe they are perfect in everything they taught, but yet I don’t find very many areas of disagreement, certainly not on the major doctrines of Christianity.

Although I’m pretty glad the fashion industry has moved beyond those big stifling collars…

I was excited to dig into A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones when I received it several months ago.  Admittedly I’ve moved slowly through it, sometimes because I’ve been lazy, but mostly because I just want to really soak it up and meditate on this teaching.

The subject of hell is a major weakness in the teaching of most churches I would assert.  I know from my own past church experiences before salvation this to be true.  Just like God’s wrath it’s not a popular subject.  It doesn’t keep people in seats; it’s a real buzz kill for most people.   Because of this weakness conversion is surface level which is really not biblical conversion at all, just raise your hand, walk an aisle, pray a prayer type conversion.

Most preaching then becomes man centered and fulfillment based.  You know feel good stuff, “boy that was a great sermon pastor…  I really needed that pick me up today, that was a really funny story you told and I sure did enjoy the drama team today”.  Have you been to this church?

Yet the Puritans taught on hell frequently and with urgency.   How can we believe in heaven without believing in hell, we can’t believe Christ needed to save us, if there was nothing to be saved from?  This is an essential and necessary doctrine of the church and it must be preached with all urgency because everyday people are headed to an eternity of torment.

Today I’m beginning a series on what the Puritans taught about hell.  I’m hopeful it will lead to a better understand and therefore, a greater sense of urgency to preach to others the fear of the Lord, maybe even hear it for ourselves for the first time.

The Terrors of HellA Puritan Theology[1] (all quoted material is from A Puritan Theology as cited from the original works of Arthur Dent & Christopher Love)

Arthur Dent – “we should always live as if we should die, or that our bed should be our grave; we must live consistently as if Christ should come to judgment presently.”

This typical Puritan approach was meant to instill terror and expose sin, but always with a view to opening the way for the mercies of Christ. 

In Dent’s dialogue this causes the ignorant man, to “quake and tremble” with his talk of hell-fire and judgment: “I feel great terror in my conscience – I am afraid I shall be damned.” [2]

A preacher that will not preach on the terrors of hell is a worthless preacher, is he not? 

How can someone be saved if they don’t know what they are going to be saved from?  This is the reason we need Jesus, He is the hope…

Jesus Christ died to save His people and His people must understand they need salvation.

Dent continues “all who groan in their misery and grieve for their sin, to believe that “Christ is for you,” and that they must “apply Christ, and all the promises of the gospel” to themselves. “for we have not other remedy or refuge but only His merits and righteousness – He is our city of refuge, whither we must fly, and where we must take sanctuary – He is the balm of Gilead, whereby our souls are cured.”

When is the last time you really thought about the fact your soul needs curing?  We really don’t want to think about this, how often do you have your conscience pricked with the knowledge of your sin and the cure for your sin?  There is no salvation with no fear of death and the terror of the Lord an understanding that it is “Your” sin that had to be paid for.

Christopher Love – “the tormented condition of the damned in Hell.” for those for whom he has not “gained their affections” with preaching on the glory to come, Love seeks to “startle their Consciences.” by preaching seven sermons on the doctrine of hell.

“Love maintains that the word translated “hell” in the Scripture can refer to the grave (“thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” [Ps. 16:10], the “belly of the Whale” (“Out of the belly of hell, I cried unto the Lord” [Jonah 2:2]), the devil himself (“The tongue of man is set on fire by hell” [James 3:6]), and the place of eternal torment (Matt, 5:29; Luke 12:5; 16:23).  In seeking to motivate us to fear God more than men and to awaken “drowsy consciences,” Love focuses on the power of God to subject men to eternal torment, which ought to “work an awful fear of God” in our hearts.  Hearing of such torments should “startle” our consciences out of a false sense of security; strip away ungrounded hopes of glory, and drive us away from wallowing in sin.”

Even as in the times of Christopher Love, preaching on hell was extremely unpopular, and as they do today, people screamed “legalism”, yet Jesus was a gospel “good news” preacher.

“He spoke directly on hell more than anyone else in Scripture.  Also, the devil, does all that he can to give preaching on hell a bad name as he seeks to “nuzzle men in security in their sins.” 

“Love boldly claims that sermons on terror have done more good upon unconverted souls, than Sermons of comfort have ever done.’  In short, we cannot claim to preach the whole counsel of God if we ‘run only upon strains of free grace.’”[3]

Today there will be someone reading this that is headed for hell… 

They may not realize that is their eternal destiny.

Perhaps they are ignorant to God’s wrath or God’s plan for salvation through repentance and faith in Christ.  They might be deceived in their salvation.

They may have hidden or un-confessed sin.  Perhaps they’ve repressed this sin for so long they don’t even consider it anymore…

…Or they are counting on God’s grace and mercy.  Whatever miserable state you might be in there is hope in Jesus Christ, even though you don’t view your condition as miserable and plight as blinding.

Do not be deceived!

Hell is real, and its miseries are eternal.  The wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6).  Consider these chilling words from the Apostle Paul as he writes urgently to us today just as he did 2000 years ago.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Please join me on this journey for the next number of weeks and let us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, do not allow yourself to be deceived by your sin.  It is a worthy endeavor.

Kevin


[1] Beeke & Jones, A Puritan Theology (2012) 830-831

[2] Dent, The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven; Wherein Every Man May Clearly See Whether He Shall Be Saved or Damned (1599; repr., Morgan, Pa: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994), 1, 277, 285, 287, 295-97, 300, 305

[3] Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 211-25