|Posted by kelvinbueckert on July 21, 2019 at 2:25 PM|
In days gone by preachers passionately warned sinners about the dangers of hell fire. Christians believed they needed to take their neighbours to church where they would hear the truth about heaven and hell. Today evangelism has become more of a personal thing – the testimony of a believer in word and deed, bearing witness to the reality of Jesus and His love. Seldom do we hear hell mentioned now, from the pulpit.
Hell (Sheol in Hebrew) was the place of the dead, described by many Old Testament scriptures. Figuratively it was a word used by the Jews to describe a place of extreme degradation and suffering. Three Greek words in the New Testament describe the after-life: Hades – Greek for Sheol – place of the dead: 2 Corinthians 15:55, Gehenna – a place of dreadful and destructive judgments, of retributive suffering, and Tartarus: a place of destruction, desolation and torment.
Modern thought argues against the reality of hell as an actual place of eternal torment on the grounds that a God of love wouldn’t, couldn’t consign anyone to such an eternal state. However, there are many scriptures which record the words of our Saviour, Himself, warning against specific judgment and wrath to come, a certain reward for rebellion and disobedience.
Although no formal declaration occurs, the Old Testament clearly identifies Sheol as the specific place where the wicked will be punished. “The wicked shall be turned into Sheol, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17) “The wicked in a moment go down into Sheol.” (Job 21:13)
The Lord Jesus clarifies the terms for us by describing the torments of hell. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell! (Matthew 10:28) “…will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) Paul tells us “God is just…..He will punish those who ….do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)
Both Matthew and Mark quote Jesus’ words “If your hand or foot cause you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter [eternal] life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” Similarly “…it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9, Mark 9:43ff)
Contemporary theologians would deny the justice of God, which needs to be satisfied. Rather they reduce the truth to a matter of living the best way we know how in order to please a one-sided deity who only loves. Not only is this a travesty of justice, but it is a tragic interpretation. Where does it place the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? God indeed would look weak and uncaring if we worshiped One who would send His ‘only begotten Son’ (John 3:16) to the cross when there was another way of solving the problem of sin.
The Holy Scriptures, which teach the fullness of the character of God and the resolve with which He offered salvation to a lost world, must be upheld as truth. Half-truth is no truth at all, untrustworthy. It is not God’s fault that man chooses day by day, era by era to mis-read His Word. The Word warns mankind of punishment by hell-fire. Certainly that punishment is unnecessary when we grasp the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection which made a straight path for His followers, into heaven, everlasting life, eternal joy and peace.
Praise be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Why do we turn away from the notion of hell? Is it a reality? Is heaven? How do you make that distinction?
Notice that when life becomes unbearably difficult, folks sometimes refer to it as hell. What does this imply?