Monday, April 27, 2009

As Sure As Hell



 The doctrine of hell has come under attack by liberal theology, along with so many other doctrines (essentially all of the fundamental teachings of scripture are questioned at best, or even ridiculed at worst).

Yet Jesus taught about hell just as He did about heaven, so why is the existence of hell even questioned among professing Christians? Some suggest that hell is merely an allegory, and not a literal place or state of being; others believe that hell is only temporary, that the souls that are condemned to that place will eventually be annihilated, and their suffering will come to an end. I hope to prove both of these statements are in error.

Please understand that this is a topic I'd rather not address; there are a lot of other topics I'm eager to get into! However, I am concerned that people are down playing or even denying the existence of this horrid place of doom. What are we saved from, if not hell: the terrible consequence of unrepentant sin and souls that have not come to the LORD Jesus for the atonement of such?

It's my desire to hit this head on, deal with what the scripture says, and hopefully help others to perceive that this is a very real dilemma of souls hanging in the balance between eternal life and eternal death.

Let's get into some statements that the LORD Jesus Himself said:

MATT 18:3-9 
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast [them] from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Note that the LORD Jesus speaks of heaven firstly, and one of the qualifications of entrance He mentioned was humbleness, as a little child; such would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The LORD takes seriously the well being of His own, particularly where 'the little ones' are concerned. And who are these little ones? Certainly they are, of course, little children; yet I believe a second application could be those who are 'young in the faith' those who are spiritually speaking, children: those who aren't yet mature in the faith, those who are recently born of God's Spirit and subsisting on the milk of the Word (HEB 5:13, 1 PET 2:2).

To offend one of these is reprehensible in the sight of God, indeed a grievous sin, punishable by damnation "everlasting fire" and "hell fire".

The word "offend" here is 'skandalizo' in the Greek, and it means "to entrap, to trip up, to entice to sin, apostasy, to cause one to mistrust one to whom they should trust and obey."

The LORD Jesus goes on to say that if our hands, feet, or eyes should offend us, then we should cut them off, pluck them out! Now is He endorsing self mutilation? Does He literally mean that we should amputate ourselves as a means of ridding us of temptation and sin? The alteration of one's body would have no more effect on our propensity to sin, than if we were to tattoo crosses and pictures of Jesus and scripture verses on them in order to make us more holy.

What Jesus is here implying is that if there is anything that is causing us to be drawn away from God and into sinful practises, we should be drastic in our response to that particular influence, even if its something that we value highly, or cherish as something we esteem.

For example, alcohol; if we love our beer (wine, whiskey, etc) and it leads us into behavior that is sinful, we should cut it off! What?! One might say, But I love my beer! I have liberty in Christ you know! All things are lawful!

Yes, but not all things edify! And while some may argue that drinking alcohol is not prohibited in the Bible, its not to be so mentioned among elders of the church, nor are deacons to be given to "much wine" (1TIM 3:2-19).

And the Bible expressly prohibits being drunk!

EPH 5:18 
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit

Others might watch sexually explicit material on late night cable station shows, and fall into lustful sin; they should cancel their cable subscription if such is a weakness of theirs. Cancel my cable?! Are you crazy? What am I going to do about my sports?!

If alcohol or cable tv offends you, cut it off, better to enter into heaven w/o the influences of these sinful practises in your heart, then to allow them to take you over and prevent you from walking in holiness.

I'm not endorsing salvation by works here, but simply desiring to show that for any one who is approaching the kingdom of God, and desires entrance, there needs to be a demonstation of genuine repentance. One of them is a willingness to leave behind one's old life style, and a willingness in denying one self, indeed, dying to self so that Christ may be born in you, creating eternal life within your spirit. For the saint, cutting away at sinful practices will remove obstacles so that we may more freely walk in the Spirit.

If we don't mortify the flesh, die to sin, and self; effectively 'cutting away that which entices us to sin' we will succumb to our sin nature and disobey God's Holy Law, and thus incur just retribution on Judgment Day for the lost. This will result in perdition and hell. For the saint, it means a lack of reward at the Bema Seat (2 COR. 5:10).

"everlasting fire" and "hell fire" are two terms that the LORD Jesus used here in this passage; what do they literally refer to?

"everlasting fire" means the following in the original Greek:
everlasting - aionios - perpetual (past, present and future), eternal (42x in NT), everlasting (25x).

fire - pur - in various applications, can re: natural sources as fire and lightening, also can refer to the holiness of God, angels as in ministers of flaming fire; tries the saints, and produces that which glories God; can also refer to divine judgment on those who reject Christ.

hell - Hinnom - as in the valley of; the English word for 'hell' comes from an old Teutonic root, meaning "to hide, or to cover over". The valley of Hinnom itself is located SW of Jerusalem and was the official site of pagan worship of the god Molech. Sacrifices of children were made to Molech in this place, the infant was laid in the brass arms of the idol which was heated until red hot, and the baby literally fried to death in this barbaric ritual (2 CHRON 28:3).

In the days of Jesus this area was a refuse heap that was perpetually burning with trash from the city.

Some would deny the existence of hell based on the meaning of this word "hell" as used by the LORD Jesus. They would point out, accurately, that this referred to the valley of Hinnom, and to the refuse that burned continually.

Yet in the context of what the LORD Jesus was saying, IF indeed that's what He meant by His warnings, it doesn't make any sense! Those guilty of sin, of offending His little ones, of those who refuse to repent and come to Christ are going to be relinquished over to a junk yard?!

He spoke of heaven and its a literal place/state of existence that saints will enjoy forever; it's not metaphorical, or allegorical. Yet in the same breath, He also speaks of hell. Again, why would we assume that the former is real and that the latter is not?

People dismiss hell and any words that the LORD Jesus had to say about them as being mere allegory. Yet even Webster's defines an 'allegory' as:

1. the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence also an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression
2. a symbolic representation : emblem

Thus if what Jesus taught about hell was a mere allegory, what was it an allegory of? With such a so called fictional representation of hell being spoken of by the LORD, what was the literal counterpart He was referring to?

I believe He was indeed using the Valley of Hinnom as an allegory, or analogy, to represent the literal place of torment that souls will have to face and endure for all eternity based on their refusal to receive salvation by Christ Jesus and He alone, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Atheists and skeptics snicker at the idea of a loving God sending people to hell. “What sort of love is that? Either you love Me or I will send you to hell?”

They have it backwards however: 

JOHN 3:16-19
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Note vs. 18: It states that those who do not believe in the Son of God are already condemned. They don't 'get condemned' once they reject Christ; they already are! In God's merciful compassion He reached out in the Person of Jesus Christ, intercepting lost souls that are rushing on their way into hell fire, offering salvation and rescue. For those who reject this Holy offer, they merely continue unabated, undisturbed, on their way to their eternal destiny.

In MARK 3:29 it says:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

He again refers to a place that is eternal in nature; the word used here for 'eternal' is the same as the last passage 'aionios'; the Greek word used for 'damnation' is as follows:

'krisis' - tribunal, justice, specifically divine law, accusation, condemnation, damnation, judgment.

The nature of this damnation is eternal, not temporal; if the soul were to be annihilated, they would no longer be subject to damnation as a result of judgment, thus it couldn't be eternal. Scripture indicates that it is.

LUKE 3:17 states: 
Whose fan [is] in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

John the Baptist, endorsed by the LORD Jesus Himself, as the greatest prophet of all prophets, declares that the JUDGE, that is the LORD Jesus Himself is coming to winnow the Earth, that is, separate the wheat from the chaff; that the wheat will be safely stored and the chaff burned with fire unquenchable. This coincides with the teachings of the Sower of the Seed, only there the LORD is sowing; here, He is reaping.

2 THESS 1:7-9 is a passage where Paul tells us of the Second Coming of Christ and what this entails:
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

The LORD Jesus is taking vengeance on those who:

~ Know not God
~ Obey not the gospel of our LORD Jesus Chris
~ They shall be punished with everlasting destruction

JOHN 17:3
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent

Knowing God personally, as our heavenly Father, in a spiritual relationship is eternal life in as much as God Himself is eternal life!

Again, the word used for everlasting is 'aionios' referring to eternal destruction.

Some who ascribe to the belief of annihilation say, See? It says destruction! The soul won't survive for long in hell, it's going to be destroyed, scripture says so!

Unfortunately such is not the case, for if you examine 'destruction' in the Greek, it says the following:

olethros - destroy, ruin, death, punishments, and 'punishments' itself refers to: execution of a sentence passed, vengeance, to pay a price, penalty. And so this term for destruction doesn't refer to annihilation or total destruction, but ruination.

Its the difference between a building that had been demolished by a demolition company, and so totally destroyed, and another building that caught fire, and was terribly burned, but while still standing,  remains unusable.

Or think of two cell phones: one you smash into tiny pieces with a sledge hammer; the other you drop into water. Both are destroyed, but whereas the former is completely destroyed, the latter is ruined, but still retains its form.

Olethros also means 'death' one might protest, and if one is dead, one no longer exists! Well, we shall see about this a bit later.

2 PET 2:9
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

"punished" here means 'kolazo' in the Greek:

"to chastise, to punish, and to be punished-being punished" a strange phrase in our English, but it connotes the idea that of perpetual punishments, never ending.

REV 14: 9- 11 says the following:
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

They have no rest day or night, this punishment is without ceasing, and there is no indication that it has a terminus at all.

Many accurately point out that the term "hell" in NT (Greek) and OT (Hebrew) scriptures refer merely to a place of departed souls, that is "sheol" in the Hebrew and "hades" in the Greek; an oft used term for both of these is 'grave' and another is 'death' and that these have absolutely nothing to do with a lake of fire or eternal torments.

Agreed, they do not!

However . . . REV 20:14-15 emphatically states:
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

"death" here is 'thanatos' in the Greek, and it means:

"death, separation of the soul from the body"

The soul is consigned to this lake of fire, and yet what fire can have an influence on a soul, something that itself is intangible? Thus the fire itself must be something other than a physical fire which would certainly, eventually consume any substance given the power of the fire and the substance it's consuming.

As well as can be said for Satan and his angels who will one day be subjected to the punishment of the Lake of Fire; yet all angels are non-corporeal beings with no (necessarily) solid form. Yet scripture is abundantly clear that this is a place reserved for the devil and all his followers:

MATT 25:41
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels

Can intangible souls and spirits be consumed as natural substances can? Does scripture imply that those consigned to the lake of fire will eventually be eradicated by those flames?

MATT 23:15 states:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

The word used here for "child" was rather surprising in its meaning:

huios - "son" the word stresses the quality and essence of one so resembling the other (in this case, the child resembling their residence) that they are indistinguishable. This word refers to legitimate children, as opposed to illegitimate. This would suggest that those 'children' are those who are as horrible, rebellious, depraved, and as ungodly as the place in which they dwell, thus fitting of their habitat.

Their destiny corresponds with the character, whether in an evil capacity (1 THESS. 5:5; JOHN 8:44) or a good capacity (1 JOHN 4:4; EPH. 5:8).

MARK 9:43-44 is a rather puzzling passage:
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

What is this business of these worms, if they have no more bodies? Could they be given some form of body that will endure the ravages of the lake of fire? That would seem unlikely based on what scripture states elsewhere, but there are these worms that in the Greek, refer to 'Skolex' worms, specifically, those that feed on dead flesh.

Its my contention that these worms are somewhat figurative but by analogy refer to the state of being of those that they 'feed' on, that is, they die not because those that they are feeding on, die not. Everything I looked at in my reference materials was not forthcoming with any illumination of this passage, and I would welcome any input on this.

LUKE 12:5 states:
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Note that word: "after". After judgment and the person is 'killed' God retains the power, ability, authority, legitimate right to cast . . . (what? if not a body that's been slain, then a soul? spirit?) into hell.

The parallel passage in MATT 10:28 seems to confirm this:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

"destroy" is 'apollumi' in the Greek:

"destroy, fully perish, ruination; the idea is not extinction but ruin, loss - not of being, but of well-being."

Once the LORD Jesus Christ returns and the Judgment of nations, and souls begins, it seems the first to be cast alive into the Lake of Fire is the Beast (anti-Christ) and the False Prophet (REV 19:20). Others are judged and consigned to their respective places of either heaven or hell, and Satan himself is only imprisoned in 'the abyss' and this lasts for 1,000 yrs.

Note what happens when Satan is loosed, and finally has sentence passed on him:

REV 20:7, 10
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The term used there again is aionios: perpetual, eternal, everlasting.

After one thousand years passes the Beast and the False prophet are still there, they haven't been consumed, or annihilated. Indeed, this is the second death where those condemned are seperated from the presence of the LORD's Spirit forever, a complete and total vacuum of God's presence, the only source of Life, yet they retain their conscience existence.

Other verses that speak of eternal death are:

GEN 2:17 - Here God tells Adam that the day that he eats of the forbidden fruit he SHALL SURELY die, and yet when he eats of it, what happens? He doesn't keel over and die, yet God said he surely would!
So how did he then die?
It was a spiritual death; thus the need for Christ to come, die for our sins, infuse all who believe in Him with eternal life, and for those who don't receive Christ, they are yet spiritually dead.

Even so, they are still aware and congitive of their environment, as are all human beings; we exist in a natural reality, but because of sin and its resulting influence on us, that of spiritual death, we are unable to perceive and know God, apart from spiritual regeneration.

This state of spiritual death will continue for those who die without a saving knowledge of Christ; they will be aware of their hellish environment, but still, spiritually dead.

ROM 6:23; JAMES 1:15; 5:20; REV 21:8; MATT 13:42

And from the Old Testament:

DEUT. 32:22; JOB 11:7-8; 26:6; PSALM. 9:17; 55:15; 86:13; ISAIAH 33:14 and ISAIAH 66:24.

Those that disregard the reality of hell insist that any God Who would do such a thing is barbaric, unloving and unjust. They fail to realize three very important truths:

1) The absolute, immutible, eternal and pure holiness of God.
2) The lethal, baneful, destructive, and reprehensible ugliness and offensiveness of sin.
3) The LORD Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all the sins of the world so that no human being would have to go there, and to refuse salvation in Christ is to refuse this offer of escaping GOD's HOLY JUDGEMENT and entering into His grace!

Sin is 'high treason' against the very holy throne of God; it's punishment is measured out by the eternal God according to His eternal Law, and therefore is in itself an eternal action – the deadly domain of hell! On the one hand, GOD is LOVE and desires all to be saved from sin, but GOD is also HOLY and must judge sin according to His Holy Nature.

This has certainly been the most unpleasant of all topics, but I felt it was necessary to answer those who would deny this fundamental doctrine, and its my sincerest hope and prayer that we ALL . . . including myself, work fervantly in our prayers and in seeking to share the Gospel with as many souls as we can before we are called home to eternity.

It is also my prayer that any and all who are unsure of their own salvation, would make their salvation sure, by examining their hearts, and why they believe they are saved.

For any who are interested in learning how I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, please refer to an older entry on this blog, FROM THE MIND OF FIRE entitled: CAN I GET A WITNESS?

may the LORD Jesus bless all of you Saints, WAY TOO MUCH!

ASLEEP IN THE LIGHT

Do you see, do you see? All the people sinking down!
Don't you care, don't you care? Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb? Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes, And pretend the job's done!

"Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord" You know it's all I ever hear!
No one aches, no one hurts, No one even sheds one tear!
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds!
And He cares for your needs,

And you just lay back, And keep soaking it in!
Oh, can't you see it's such a sin?
Cause He brings people to you door, And you turn them away,
As you smile and say, "God bless you, be at peace" And all heaven just weeps!

Cause Jesus came to your door . . . You've left him out on the streets.
Open up, open up! And give yourself away!
You see the need, you hear the cries, So how can you delay?
God's calling and you're the one!
But like Jonah you run!

He's told you to speak. But you keep holding it in,
Oh can't you see it's such a sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark, That the church just can't fight
Cause it's asleep in the light! How can you be so dead?
When you've been so well fed!
Jesus rose from the grave. And you! You can't even get out of bed!

Oh, Jesus rose from the dead, Come on, get out of your bed!
How can you be so numb?
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes,

And pretend the job's done!
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job's done!
Don't close your eyes!
Don't pretend the jobs done!

Come away, come away, come away with Me, My love,
Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, My love.

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