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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Epilogue)

We’ve covered my top ten reasons for “believing” in hell. By “believing” I don’t mean that Christians should revel in the idea of anyone being eternally lost. By “believing” I mean I want to affirm what the Bible teaches, allow its truth to orchestrate my actions to seek to rescue those who are still going there.

The first reason I affirm the doctrine of hell is that God saved me from going there. I trusted Christ because I was afraid of God’s judgment — a great reason to get saved! I find it amazing that more people are not getting saved out of a fear of God’s eternal judgment. Maybe we’re not getting that part of the message out.

The second reason I believe in hell is its logic. If all people will exist somewhere after death, then the biblical teaching about hell makes sense. If a person has died rejecting Christ, there is no forgiveness, no second chance, no possibility of redemption. They will be cast outside God’s kingdom and confined to a terrible place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. And it seems clear to me (from Revelation 20) that they will endure the same torment that will be inflicted on the devil, the false prophet, and the beast.

The third reason I believe in hell has to do with the doctrine of God. Is He truly “holy, holy, holy”? Then He must do something about SIN. This same God who commanded the extermination of the Amalekites in I Samuel 15, who destroyed Uzzah for touching the ark of the covenant in 2 Samuel 6, and who killed Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 is the same God who executed Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and prematurely brought some of the erring Corinthians home to heaven because of their abuse of the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same. And He hates sin!

The fourth reason I believe in hell has to do with the doctrine of man. Made in God’s image, man is broken and needs his sin atoned for. He does not cease to exist at his death, but there will be the separation of his body from his soul or spirit. He will also experience eternal death if he dies in his sins (not believing in Jesus). Luke 16 provides a glimpse into that time period of one’s existence between physical death and one’s resurrection.

The fifth reason I believe in hell concerns the biblical teaching about sin. To minimize sin is to minimize the price Christ paid at calvary. If God is thrice-holy, we are in a lot of trouble. The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus was God’s plan to redeem man from his sin. We may not think of our sin as cosmic treachery, but the issue isn’t what we think of our sin — but what God thinks!

The sixth reason I believe in hell relates to the biblical teaching about salvation. We were indeed “brands plucked out of the fire” (as John Wesley forever considered himself — As a five-year-old he nearly died in the Epworth Parsonage fire, leaping out of an upper window into a rescuer’s arms just as the whole roof fell in). We were rescued from God’s righteous wrath by the death of His Son. His substitutionary sacrifice bore the punishment we deserved. Editing hell automatically means redefining salvation.

The seventh reason I believe in hell concerns the doctrine of Christ. Jesus clearly taught hell as eternal separation and punishment. If He were wrong, His deity is invalid. Or He purposely deceived people in His teaching. A simple survey of a gospel like Matthew shows that Jesus is our primary source for details about the after condition of “the wicked.”

The eighth through tenth reasons I believe in hell concern the suggested alternatives. Each, we said, lacks biblical support. Annihilationism isn’t taught in the Scriptures, although many work hard to try to prove that it is. After-death opportunities for conversion isn’t in the Bible. Nor do we find persuasive evidence that all will eventually be saved (universalism).

In conclusion, these ten reasons provide a biblical certainty about the sad state of those who die outside of Christ. We who hold to the final authority of Scripture must embrace the awful truth — that God will forever separate from His presence those who die without His Son.

May we who believe such truths plead with the Lord to give us opportunities to share the Good News with others — before it is eternally too late!

(The books on the left are recommended; those on the right should be read with care).

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 10) The False Alternatives: UNIVERSALISM

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin? We’ve also considered REASON #6 — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)? REASON #7 asked about hell’s relationship to the Person of Christ.

In REASONS 8-10 we are looking at the THREE ALTERNATIVES suggested to take the place of eternal conscious punishment. We’ve considered the most popular alternative view —  ANNIHILATIONISM (REASON #8). We found that view lacking biblical support. We’ve also looked at REASON #9 POST-MORTEM CONVERSIONISM and found that it, too, lacks biblical support.

The last ALTERNATIVE which is suggested is REASON #10 and that is UNIVERSALISM. This view teaches that all without exception will be saved (some even suggest that Satan himself will be brought back into God’s family). Advocates of this view abound: The author of The Shack, William Paul Young, says quite clearly: ““God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. . . . Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying.” (Lies We Believe about God, p. 118)

Phillip Gulley in his book If Grace Is True, says, “I have a new formula.  It too is simple and clear.  It is the most compelling truth I’ve ever known.  It is changing my life.  It is changing how I talk about God.  It is changing how I think about myself.  It is changing how I treat other people.  It brings me untold joy, peace, and hope.  This truth is the best news I’ve every heard, ever believed, and ever shared.  I believe God will save every person.”

Bishop Carlton Pearson puts it this way: “The message the world needs to hear is not that they need to accept Christ to be saved . . . but that God loves them and has already reconciled them to himself.” He further says, “The purest gospel to me is not that you need to ‘get saved’ but that all in fact are both saved and safe with God through the finished work of the cross and Christ. . . . We tell the unregenerate or unenlightened . . . your sins are already atoned for and you are ok with God, so enjoy a more intimate relationship with yourself in God.”

David Bentley Hart, in his That All SHALL Be Saved, mocks the “infernalists” who hold to an eternal hell and rejects the traditional Christian view of the gospel: Penal Substitution as the solution to our plight under the wrath of God due to Original Sin. He then rejects this gospel, calling it “degrading nonsense” (p. 25). [I haven’t finished reading Hart’s book yet, but highly recommend the following review by Steve Rohn found here].

We acknowledge that there are some texts that sound universalistic, such as Romans 5:18 which says, “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” But we read in the preceding and the following verses the following: “17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! . . .19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Colossians 1 says, “19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” However, If one holds to the belief that the Bible is not self-contradictory, then one must attempt to reconcile the apparently universalistic force of Colossians 1:19-20 with other passages such as Matthew 25:46 (“these [wicked] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,” NASB), John 5:29 (“those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”), and Revelation 21:8 (“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur”).

One writer says, “In context,”  [Colossians 1:20] “cannot mean, unfortunately, that every last individual will be in personal fellowship with God. The cosmic pacification Paul has in mind includes the reconciliation of believers and the disarming of unrepentant enemies of the cross (2:15). Having become impotent, the evil forces must submit to Christ’s cosmic victory so that his peaceful purposes will be fully achieved.”

Philippians 2:9-11 reads,

 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

One evangelical asks, “Does not ‘confessing Jesus Christ as Lord’ equal salvation?” “After all,” he continued, “Romans 10:9 says that ‘if you confess with your mouth “Jesus as Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’”

However, one must point out that the demons in Mark 3:11 were compelled (apparently by the mere presence of Christ) to declare, “You are the Son of God!” That certainly does not equal saving faith, but rather a forced acknowledgment of Christ’s person. Matthew 8:29 records the demons as expecting not salvation, but torment: “What do You want with us, Son of God? . . . Have You come to torture us before the appointed time?” Simply saying the words “Jesus Christ is Lord” does not bring salvation, as any Christian who has dialogued with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons knows!

In summary, the three alternatives to eternal conscious punishment are lacking in biblical support. We agree with John Gerstner who said that “the fear of hell is the only thing most likely to get worldly people thinking about the Kingdom of God. No rational human being can be convinced that he is in imminent danger of everlasting torment and do nothing about it.” (we will have one more post as an epilogue to this discussion)

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 9) The False Alternatives: POST-MORTEM CONVERSION

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin? We’ve also considered REASON #6 — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)? REASON #7 asked about hell’s relationship to the Person of Christ.

In our last three posts we want to consider the THREE ALTERNATIVES suggested to take the place of eternal conscious punishment. We’ve considered the most popular alternative view — and that is ANNIHILATIONISM (REASON #8). We found that view lacking biblical support.

Let’s look at a second ALTERNATIVE being embraced by some today — and that leads us to REASON #9 POST-MORTEM CONVERSIONISM. This view was popularized by the American theologian Donald G. Bloesch who said, “We do not wish to build fences around God’s grace . . . and we do not preclude the possibility that some in hell might finally be translated into heaven.”

What? Yes, after-death opportunities for salvation. Some try to tie this idea in with I Peter 3:19 where we read that Jesus “went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.” Others will connect this idea of further chances of salvation after death by referring to the Apostles’ Creed (later editions) which says that Christ “descended into hell.”

So the theory is that between Christ’s death and bodily resurrection He went to the place of the departed dead and offered them additional chances for salvation. My suggestion would be that Christ did not descend to the place of the dead between His physical death and His resurrection, but instead went to be with His Father in paradise (as he promised the repentant thief, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,” Lk. 23:43). There is no evidence that, if He descended to hell, it was for the purpose of giving second chances to those who had died.

This view also fails to find biblical support. Jesus says in John 8:24, “If you do not believe I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” Hebrews 9:27 says “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” There is no biblical evidence whatsoever that people will receive chances to believe after death. That’s why we need to get the gospel out NOW! (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 8) The False Alternatives: ANNIHILATIONISM

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve  thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin? We’ve also considered REASON #6 — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)? In our last post on this topic we asked about hell’s relationship to the Person of Christ.

In our last three posts we want to consider the THREE ALTERNATIVES suggested to take the place of eternal conscious punishment. This morning we will think about the most popular alternative view — and that is ANNIHILATIONISM.

This view teaches that the wicked will be destroyed, put out of existence, cease to be at God’s judgment. I must admit that if I could vote on a doctrine, I’d consider voting for this one. But doctrine is not determined democratically. The only issue is: what does the Bible teach?

Those who hold (or held) to annihilationism are such Evangelical notables as John R.W. Stott, Clark Pinnock, and Michael Green. [I’ve examined each of these three alternative views carefully in my book The Other Side of the Good News]. The most prominent American who has vigorously advocated this view (sometimes called “conditionalism”) is Edward Fudge in his book The Fire Which Consumes.  [I think my friend Robert Peterson does a good job refuting Fudge in the book they co-authored entitled Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue].

Stott’s view was revealed in his book Evangelical Essentials (co-authored with David Edwards); Michael Green’s view shows up in his Evangelism Through the Local Church: A Comprehensive Guide to All Aspects of Evangelism. There Green writes that the Bible “does not teach the conscious unending torment of those who are eternally separated from God. The language of ‘destruction’ is the most common description of final loss in the Bible… there is no need to think of eternal ongoing enjoyment of God being necessarily matched by eternal ongoing torment away from God.”

Annihilationism is the doctrine held by Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This doesn’t make that view wrong; I’m just stating a fact.

John Stott provided his four major reasons for holding to this view.
(1) Scriptural Language: He argues that the use of words like “destroy” and expressions like the wicked “are not” prove that the wicked will cease to exist.
(2) Scriptural Imagery: Stott argues that the primary purpose of fire is destruction.
(3) Scriptural Justice: Stott reasons that eternal punishment for finite sins makes no sense.
(4) Scriptural Universalism: He insists that the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment contradicts the very concept of God’s final victory over evil.

My brief response to Stott (I’ve answered his arguments more thoroughly in my The Other Side of the Good News) is as follows: To argument #1, “destroy” does not mean ceasing to exist. My teenaged son “destroyed” my car when he drove it into a snow-covered ditch, but the car still existed. “Destroy” can mean ruin. The expression that the wicked “are not” (such as in Proverbs 12:7 which says “The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.” KJV) does not prove that the wicked will cease to exist. We read in Genesis 5:24 that “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” To “be no more” does not equal cessation of existence.

To argument #2, Stott says the primary purpose of fire is destruction. However, the fire of hell is described as indestructible and eternal and unable to be quenched (Mk. 9:48; Jude 1:7; Mt. 18:8; 25:41). And the burning bush in Exodus 3:2 in the wilderness was not consumed; its purpose was to get Moses’ attention.

To argument #3, Stott reasons that eternal punishment for finite sins makes no sense. But the time needed to commit a crime isn’t the criterion for judgment. The nature of the crime and the person against whom it is committed are the critical issues. Rejecting the Son of God — what could be a greater crime than that?

Stott’s fourth argument could be called “Scriptural universalism.” The very idea of eternal conscious punishment, according to Stott, contradicts the biblical concept of God’s final victory over evil. However, when we incarcerate criminals and remove them from society, such a removal doesn’t diminish our finite “victory” over evil, does it? Annihilationism is indeed a form of universalism, for if the only category of human beings who exist forever are the redeemed, then salvation is universal (the wicked being put out of existence). All the language that indicates the wicked will be expelled from God’s presence (“Depart from me. I never knew you,” Mt. 7:23) as well as Jesus’ teaching about the expulsion of the wicked into the “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41).

In our next post, we will discuss another alternative to eternal conscious punishment — after-death opportunities for salvation. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 7) The Doctrine of CHRIST

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve also thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin? We’ve also thought about REASON #6  — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)?

Let’s think about REASON #7 – How does the doctrine of hell relate to CHRISTOLOGY (the Person and work of the Lord Jesus)?

What does the doctrine of eternal lostness have to do with the Person of the Lord Jesus? The real question here is: What did HE teach? If He was indeed God the Son, then whatever He taught, we had better believe!

Here’s a challenge for you, my reader. Take a Bible you’re not afraid to mark up (preferably one of your own), and read through the Gospel of Matthew. Underline every reference to hell from the Lord Jesus. Here is what I found when I did this study:

The truth is that Jesus either misunderstood the eternal destiny of lost people (which would contradict His divinity) or He purposely warned people of a hell that doesn’t exist (which would compromise His truthfulness. When the Unitarian minister Theodore Parker once remarked: “I believe that Jesus Christ taught eternal punishment — I do not accept it on his authority!”, he was choosing to disagree with the very Son of God. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 6) The Doctrine of SALVATION

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve also thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin?

Let’s look at REASON #6 this morning — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)? There is so much that can be said here. From what has Christ saved us? Why did He have to die? How bad a condition were we in that only the death of the Lord Jesus could rescue us?

The following Scriptures come to mind when thinking about the nature of our salvation and escape from eternal hell:

I Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God

We read in 2 Corinthians 8:9 – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

In Romans 9:22 Paul writes, “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”

The writer to the Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (2:3)

And we have the dividing of all humanity into the “sheep” and the “goats” in Matthew 25. There Jesus says,  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (vv. 41 & 46)

The overall view of the atonement (the work of Christ on the cross) that is most supported by the Scriptures is called the vicarious/penal view. “Vicarious” means He took our place. “Penal” means He bore our judgment.

I’ve written a short booklet entitled Saved! Rescued from God, by God, and for God. I will send the pdf of my Saved! Rescued by God, from God, and for God to all who ask. Just provide your email in the comment section below — or send me an email at theoprof@bellsouth.net.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 5) The Doctrine of SIN

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man?

Let’s look at REASON #5 this morning — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of sin (hamartiology)? SIN explains a lot in life: our brokenness, the fractured condition of society and politics and governments, our sense of guilt that we try to cover up with entertainment or drugs or sports, our need to self-justify, our habit of favorably comparing ourselves to others less “sinful”, our need to euphemize the very concept of transgression or iniquity or rebellion, our empty hope that our good will outweigh our bad at the judgment of God, etc.

SIN cost the Son of God’s life on the cross! SIN plunged the whole universe into a fallen condition (creation “groans”, waiting for the New Heavens and the New Earth, Romans 8:19). To minimize our SIN must minimize the cross. Did Christ’s sacrificial death overpay to redeem us? No! He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, I Peter 2:24. The Second Person of the Divine Trinity took upon Himself a perfect human body for the express purpose of paying the SIN-debt that we owed! No other religion offers that kind of Savior.

J.C. Ryle’s justly famous volume, Holiness, begins with a statement to this effect: “He would make great strides in holiness must first consider the greatness of sin.” Ryle, writing at the end of nineteenth century was merely reflecting what Anselm of Canterbury had written in the early middle-ages. Attempting to answer the question, Why did God become man (Cur Deus Homo), Anselm has a famous line put to one character (aptly called Boso) which goes like this: Nondum considerasti quantum ponderis sit peccatum. Roughly translated that means, “You have not yet considered the gravity of sin.” Boso’s inability to see the necessity for the Lord Jesus Christ to become incarnate in order to save His people lay in his reluctance to place sufficient emphasis upon our need of salvation. Our problem is sin. It has been so since the Garden of Eden; and it remains so to this day.” (https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/putting-sin-to-death)

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 4) The Doctrine of Man

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3  — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God?

Let’s look at REASON #4 this morning — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of man (anthropology)? Here the central argument is the nature of the human being. Do we have immortal souls? Is there existence after death or does one cease to exist at death? Might God put out of existence those who reject the gospel (annihilationism)?

Scripture teaches that physical death is to be defined as the separation of the body from the soul or spirit. Eternal death is the separation of the person from God forever. When we say the wicked person (we are all born wicked; “the wicked” refers to those who die without Christ) is separated from God forever, we need to remind ourselves of God’s omnipresence. Spatially no one can escape the presence of God. But in hell God is there, not as Savior, but as Judge. [The late Donald Bloesch taught that God’s omnipresence in hell offers eventual hope to the lost, but that contradicts Scripture].

So, spatial language (being cast out of God’s presence [“depart from me, I never knew you” – Mt. 7:23] and sinners not standing in the assembly of the righteous – Ps. 1:5) is used for the relational point of being cut off from life by God.

There is existence beyond the grave (as evidenced by Elijah and Moses’ talking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – Mt. 17) for both the righteous and the wicked (see Lk. 16’s story of the rich man and Lazarus). Granted, there are no specific references to man’s having an immortal soul, but the Bible is clear that, for the believer, “absent from the body = present with the Lord” (Phil. 1). For the unbeliever there is, upon death, a being cast into temporary hell (hades – Lk. 16) there to await final judgment and eternal hell (the lake of fire – Rev. 20).

The arguments for annihilationism (the cessation of existence) are lacking in Scripture, despite the best efforts of people like Edward Fudge and books like Rethinking Hell. In the gospel there is, indeed, a hell to shun and a heaven to gain!

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 3) The Doctrine of God

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell! We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense.Let’s look at REASON #3 this morning — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? Those who reject the doctrine of hell as eternal conscious punishment (ECP) say things like:

“[Hell is] an odious conception . . . blasphemous in its view of the Creator” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Hell is “the final mockery of God’s nature” (John A.T. Robinson).This doctrine of hell is “an outrageous doctrine, a theological and moral enormity” (Clark H. Pinnock).

“How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the Gospel itself.” (Clark H. Pinnock)

The liberal scholar John A.T. Robinson (1919-1985), agreeing with the sentiments of the second century Alexandrian theologian Origen, pointedly charges in the article “Universalism – Is It Heretical?” that “Christ . . . remains on the Cross as long as one sinner remains in hell. This is not speculation: it is a statement grounded in the very necessity of God’s nature. In a universe of love there can be no heaven which tolerates a chamber of horrors, no hell for any which does not at the same time make it hell for God. He cannot endure that — for that would be the final mockery of his nature — and He will not.”

The theologian Nels F.S. Ferré sees the theological battlefield to be the nature of God. “Traditional orthodoxy,” Ferré says, “has to be challenged, fought and slain.” He writes, “Some have never really seen how completely contradictory are heaven and hell as eternal realities. Their eyes have never been opened to this truth. If eternal hell is real, love is eternally frustrated and heaven is a place of mourning and concern for the lost. Such joy and such grief cannot go together. There can be no psychiatric split personality for the real lovers of God and surely not for God himself. That is the reason that heaven can be heaven only when it has emptied hell, as surely as love is love and God is God. God cannot be faithless to Himself no matter how faithless we are; and His is the power, the kingdom and the glory.”

Ferré continues by saying that eternal hell compromises God’s sovereign love and that “Such a doctrine would either make God a tyrant, where any human Hitler would be a third degree saint, and the concentration camps of human torture, the king’s picnic grounds. That such a doctrine could be conceived, not to mention believed, shows how far from any understanding of the love of God many people once were and, alas, still are.”

But what are we do with Scriptures like Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’”

In many ways we are in a battle over the nature of God Himself! If God is indeed “allergic” to sin, then what is He to do with sinners who do not cast themselves on Christ, asking for His forgiveness? Universalists say God will save everyone in the end. Annihilationists say that God will end the existence of those who die without Christ. The Scriptures teach that there are two eternal destinies for man — and both are eternal (Mt. 25:48). God’s abhorrence of sin cost His Son’s life on the cross. If we are to exclude unrepentant sinning Christians from our churches (I Cor. 5), how can we object to the idea that a thrice-holy God can do the same with those who reject Christ?

A.W. Tozer sums up the issue when he writes, “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.” (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2020 in hell

 

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“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 2) Logical

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell!

REASON #2 – “Doesn’t It Make Sense?” LOGICAL

Just a few notes from several reviews of the book, Hell: The Logic of Damnation: Jerry Walls makes the point that traditional views of hell are still defensible and can be believed with intellectual and moral integrity. His approach to the topic is philosophical theology, arguing from the two truths of the divine nature and the human nature.

In light of the divine nature, Walls argues that some versions of the doctrine are compatible not only with God’s omnipotence and omniscience, but also with a strong account of His perfect goodness. It is this topic — God’s perfect goodness — that receives Walls’ special attention since the doctrine of hell is most often rejected on moral grounds. Walls also argues that human freedom does not make the doctrine of hell unintelligible, since the idea of a decisive choice of evil is a coherent one.

A reviewer writes, “If there is an eternity, it’s not something to mess with. Which brings us to hell. So much depends on whether there is a hell.”

For many centuries hell was very popular. In the last century or so “the hot grip of hell has loosened.” Bertrand Russell said in 1927, “Hell is neither so certain nor as hot as it used to be.” Culture either downright denies or at least waters down the very idea of hell. Sartre’s play “No Exit” presents damnation as a few of your rotten neighbors getting on your nerves for eternity.

And then there are the words of Jesus — “repeated and categorical and hammered home, not only to the effect that there is a hell but that it is a fiery and totally miserable place, and eternal, too.”

Many today suggest that “a really good God would find a way to let even the worst of us off the hook in the end.” He quotes one Charles Duthie, who puts the question more beguilingly: “Do you or do you not entertain the hope that somehow, in the end, all men, even the worst, will be reconciled with him?” We all want a theological happy ending.

The famous philosopher Bertrand Russell had no qualms about finding fault with Jesus Christ Himself on this point, since nobody, Russell argued, “who is profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.” For James Mill, a God who sent people to hell represented “the most perfect conception of wickedness.”

Many Christians accept the idea of hell, but don’t really believe it. Evidence that they don’t believe it is that they do not act like it. We would immediately warn our unbelieving neighbour if his house was on fire, but we seem “strangely reconciled” to his eternal fate. “Walls . . . does not think that because a culture trivializes the concept of hell it does not exist, nor does he think that belief in the existence of hell compromises belief in a good and loving God.”

 

Here are some logical questions that occur to me:

1. If at God’s right hand “are eternal pleasures forever more” (Ps. 16:11), what must be at His left hand?

2. Does it not make sense that the opposite of God in all His beauty and perfection is ugliness and brokenness and loss?

3. The extent to which we consider the awfulness of being separated from God forever directly flows from the wonder of being in fellowship with Him forever.

4. To reject eternal hell is to do irreparable damage to the atoning work of the Lord Jesus.

5. If man is an immortal being, he must exist somewhere, even in his lost condition.

6. If eternal hell is rejected, then is it redemptive? Purgatorial? Only hortatory?

7. What do we do with the outright, biblical statements about hell’s punishments, eternality, awfulness?

Pray with me? “Lord, I certainly don’t relish the idea of anyone suffering forever, excluded from fellowship with You. But there is a certain logic to eternal condemnation. Help me not only to accept the teaching of Scripture, but to care deeply for those who are still going to that awful place. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2020 in hell

 

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