“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 11)

21 Jun

~~ Ch. 11 ~~
“Intro to Theology 101” was one of Hornby’s favorite classes to teach. It gave him a chance to survey the ten major areas of Christian doctrine and, hopefully, to whet the appetite of his students for all things theological.

“Today, students,” Dr. Hornby said, “we’re going to deal with a very difficult subject. The subject is what happens to those who die without a saving knowledge of Jesus.”

“Dr. Hornby?” one young lady raised her hand. “Are you talking about . . .” (she blushed when she said the next word) “. . . hell?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.” Hornby could see on the faces of the 30 or so students in the class that he had their undivided attention. “Many people who claim to be Christians have abandoned the idea of eternal, conscious punishment, but I want to show that the Bible actually teaches that ‘the wicked’ — those who die without Christ — will be separated from God and His people forever and will undergo everlasting punishment.”

“But my pastor taught us that all will eventually get to heaven!” one student in the back said. “In fact, he said that God is too loving to send anyone to hell and man isn’t sinful enough to merit eternal punishment.”

“That’s a very common view,” Dr. Hornby replied. It’s usually called universalism, but it’s not what the Bible teaches.” Hornby went on to show several clear Scriptures which indicated that there will be a final separation of those in Christ from those who did not trust Him as their Savior.

“I’ve had some Seventh-Day Adventist friends who told me that those who die without Christ will eventually be annihilated, put out of existence, by God,” another student stated. “In fact, they told me that God shouldn’t be seen as a cosmic torturer!”

“That’s a view known as conditionalism or annihilationism,” Hornby said. “In fact, one of the best known Evangelical leaders, John R.W. Stott, was a conditionalist. But, again, that’s not what the Bible teaches. Hornby pointed out a number of Scriptures which indicate that “the wicked” will undergo eternal, conscious punishment.

“Perhaps there will be numerous opportunities to trust Christ after death?”, asked a student named Michael Delganey. “Must we really believe that God’s grace toward the lost will end at death? Didn’t Jesus preach to the dead when He descended to hell between His death and His resurrection?”

Hornby thought for a moment. “You’ve asked a great question. Michael, is it? Some have thought that Christ’s so-called descent into hell is explained to us in I Peter 3. This view is sometimes called ‘the post-mortem conversion’ view.” Hornby went on to show that I Peter 3 is really talking about Jesus preaching through Noah to the unbelievers of Noah’s day. And that Jesus did not offer a second or third or fourth chance for salvation to people after their deaths.

“But, Dr. Hornby,” MIchael responded. “Do you really believe that those who die without believing in Jesus will be eternally condemned and never, ever have a chance to get right with God? Really?”

Hornby could see that Michael’s question was more than merely academic. “I believe that we should grieve for those who have died without Christ, but for them it is too late. That’s why the Bible puts such an emphasis on sharing our faith with people now. On earth. Before they die.”

Michael’s head was down on his desk. After Hornby finished his lecture — and assigned twenty Scriptures for the students to look up for their next session of Intro to Theology — he went over to Michael to talk with him.

“Michael,” Dr. Hornby said, “I know this is a disturbing topic. Could there even be a more disturbing topic than this one? Are you thinking about someone you care about who has died without trusting Jesus?”

Michael’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, Dr. Hornby! My uncle. I don’t have any reason to believe that he died believing in Jesus! And now he is lost . . . forever!”

Hornby pulled up a desk next to Michael and wished he had his Ellie with him. She would know what to do. She would put her arm around Michael and just let him cry. All Hornby could do was ask him, “Would you want to tell me a bit about your uncle, Michael?”

“Well, sir, you need to know that my last name was changed a couple of years ago.”

“Changed?” Dr. Hornby responded.

“Yessir. Our last name used to be ‘Delvaney.’ My father changed our last name because of the Delvaney mob. My uncle was their leader, Bubba Delvaney,and he died last year in a car accident.”


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