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Archive for death

The Doctrine of Hell

March 22, 2011

It is hard to question Rob Bell’s ability with neither words nor the apparent sincerity that motivated him to write Love Wins. He so wants Paul’s words “who would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) to extend to every member of Adam’s fallen race. Obviously, our Lord’s desire would be to have all men to be saved. But Bell’s interpretation of the verse would result in universalism. The context is clear. Paul meant that Jesus Christ would have all kinds of men be thought of, be prayed for, and be saved. This would include kings and all who are in authority in order that we (believers) may lead a peaceful lifestyle (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Many passages indicate that some out of every kindred, tongue, and nation will be saved (Acts 10:35; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:6).

There have been liberal thinkers in every generation who have skillfully and faithfully attempted to jettison the truth of hell from the pages of holy writ. Let’s take a short glimpse at this subject.

In winding down the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle John said, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great stand before God. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to their works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:11-15).

Those cast into the lake of fire plunging headlong into the second death were those who were not found in the book of life. The book of life is the roll call of God’s forever family, the record of those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. Our Lord said that the one who believes on the Son is not condemned (John 3:18a). But He also said that he that does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18b).

If there was ever a doubt about the condition of the heart of man, the prophet Jeremiah sets the record straight. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). These sinful hearts are found in every person born on this planet, not just those that we would classify as being evil people. All people – moral, immoral, and even religious people – have deceitful, wicked hearts. This universal deceitfulness and wickedness is spelled out clearly by Paul in Romans. He says that there are none righteous, none. He says that there are none who understands, none. He says that none seek after God, none. He says that all have turned aside, all. And all have become unprofitable, all. He says that there are none who does good, not even one. He sums it up by saying that there is no fear of God before their eyes Romans 3:10-17).

The One seated on the Great White Throne is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. How do we know? Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22-23).

The judgment of hell will be for those who are called “dead.”

John saw the dead small and great stand before God. Death in the Bible means “separation.” Physical death is the first death. The first death is the separation of the soul from the human spirit. Spiritual death is the second death. This death is the separation of the soul and human spirit from God . . . forever. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:15).

It is one thing to die physically, but something very different to die spiritually. If one dies spiritually, the destination is hell. “Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them” (Psalm 55:15). All will stand before God to face His judgment – the strong and the weak, the powerful and the poor, rulers and peasants and all in between.

Hell is God’s just judgment of fallen man based solely upon His righteousness.

The devil, the chief of liars, has spawned billions who are habitual, chronic liars (John 8:44). Children lie; husbands lie; wives lie. Employers lie to employees and then to the public. Politicians lie, get elected and then lie to stay in office. Governments lie to the people; educator’s lie; scientist’s lie; and members of the media lie. Our entire social framework is built on lies! But God will one day set the record straight. “I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by Christ. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:31). God will judge according to His standard, His absolute right standard of righteousness, not ours. His righteousness is measured by absolute perfection. It is a divine standard that no fallen human being can ever come close to achieving. To spurn His absolute holiness is to create a chasm so deep that only the pains of eternal hell can fill. To reject God’s grace is to face His divine justice in full measure.

To fallen man’s mind this judgment will never be fair. The reason for this is clear. Proverbs says that every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2). God knows all the thoughts, words, and works of every human being who has ever lived. Even more amazing is that He knows the secret motives behind them. All thoughts, words, and deeds will be measured against God’s absolute perfect standard of righteousness. All who have rejected God’s free offer of grace given through the shed blood of Jesus Christ will fall short of His righteous standard. That is the essence of sin, and the Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In stark contrast, the scripture says of God, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He”(Deuteronomy 32:4).

God’s Day of Judgment is coming.

Satan has deceived generation after generation into believing that they can live as they please without fear of ultimate accountability before a living God. But the Bible is clear! “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).

Daniel gives us a short glimpse of this coming day: “I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames; its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10).

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

The health and wealth preachers of our day are very uncomfortable with anyone mentioning the doctrine of hell. They much prefer to speak of the gentle, loving, caring, and merciful Jesus. This type of Jesus sells to the politically correct mindset far more than a vengeful Savior. But it is Jesus who spoke more about hell than anyone in the Bible. Over and over he warned people and pled with men to avoid it by coming to Him for salvation.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Our Lord, possibly to illustrate hell, pointed toward Gehenna, the valley of Ben-Hinnom located southwest of Jerusalem. It started out as a Canaanite sacrificial site where victims were  into a pit to appease the god Molech. But it ended up as a garbage dump where the flames never seemed to die. Many bodies of criminals were dumped there. Hell’s torment, likewise, is described as fire that will never go out and cannot be extinguished and from which the damned will never find relief. Jesus equated the duration of hell with the duration of heaven. “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

Hell is a place of torment described as darkness where no light can penetrate and nothing can be seen. Throughout the endless ages of eternity the damned will never again see light or anything that light illumines. They will, in fact, be in the presence of a God who is everywhere present.

God originally designed hell for the devil and his fallen angels (Matthew 25:41, but people who choose to follow Satan’s way instead of God’s will also suffer Satan’s fate. Neither the soul nor the body is annihilated at death, nor will they ever be. Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

When an unbeliever dies, his soul goes out from the presence of God into hades, the place of the dead. At the resurrection of all the dead, the bodies of unbelievers will be raised, and those resurrected bodies will join the soul. They will stand before God at the Great White Throne. They will be condemned and cast alive into the liquid lake of fire. We do have a gentle, compassionate, and amazingly gracious Savior who is at this very moment extending the invitation to everyone to come to Him by faith (Matthew 11:28). We have a window of opportunity now to trust in Him as the Gentle Shepherd of the sheep and be forever saved. But there is coming a time when this window will be shut tight and all who have not availed themselves to His grace will face Him as judge.

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 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 our 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 to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).

Ominous words indeed!

The Worth of Dying with Christ

February 6, 2011

In Luke chapter four, Jesus said that man should not live by bread alone (human food) but by everyone word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (spiritual food). Every believer in Christ is to be spiritually nourished from God’s word. This spiritual food will increase our capacity for faith in the unseen wisdom of God. I want to teach you a truth that will become spiritual “comfort food.” Spiritual truth must be seen with the eyes of our minds, not our physical eyes.

“The wages of sin is death,” are ominous words that are often used by the Holy Spirit to draw an unbeliever to saving faith in Jesus Christ. These words from the eternal holy God apply to every member of the human race.  The fact that the wages of sin is death has never changed or been altered in any way. Everyone who sins, every one – those who do not believe in Christ and those who believe in Christ – must die.  That is what God says, and that is what He means.

If you are a theological thinker, perhaps you are taken aback by that last statement. Even Christians must die? But, hold it!  It is extremely important where and how a sinner dies. Those who do not know Jesus Christ personally will die outside of Jesus Christ and will be separated from the presence of God and slam headlong into a liquid lake of fire that burns forever and ever (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 20:11-15). This is what the Bible calls “the second death” (Revelation 20:15).

But what about those of us who have trusted in Christ?  How do we die?  The apostle Paul repeatedly used the phrase “in Christ” to describe Christians. What did He mean? Take this glimpse into God’s unseen world. At the moment of our personal faith in Christ, we become forever connected to Him. Paul wrote that by means of one Spirit (God’s Holy Spirit) we (those who trust in Christ) have all (each one) been baptized (not with water, but spiritually) into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).  Every believer is baptized into a permanent union with Christ.

When did this amazing transformation take place? From our human view, it happened at the moment we believed in Christ.  God, however, who lives in the eternal present, has always seen those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as being “in Christ.”  There has never has been a time when we were not in His Son. In fact, God tells us that He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:3-4).  This spiritual grace was given to us in Christ even before time began (2 Timothy1:9).

Crucified With Christ

Since this is true, we were in Christ at the time of his death on the cross of Calvary. Paul wrote to the church at Galatia:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The words “I have been crucified with Christ” indicates a past action. What exactly does Paul mean? Those who stood under Calvary’s cross at the crucifixion were watching a human being hanging there with nails driven into His hands and feet and writhing in agony.  But God, living in the eternal present, saw all believers from all the ages at that moment as being “in Christ.” What an incredible thought!

What does this truth mean to us? Every believer of every generation has paid God’s wages for sin. We died in Him. The wages of sin is death, but we (Christians) pay that debt to God because we are in union with the One who bore our sin debt. How amazing is that? Our slavery to the authority of our old Adamic sin nature died when we died in Christ. The power of sin has no more real authority over us.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:1-7)

Unbelievers have no choice but to submit to the power of the Adamic death nature within them. That does not mean that every unbeliever is as bad as they possibly can be, but they are constantly controlled by the power of sin. Even when they do apparently good moral things, they are motivated by selfish and devious thoughts that can never please God.  On the other hand, Christians are capable of works that actually please God because His Holy Spirit performs the deeds through the regenerate believer.  We can truly walk in newness of life.

Resurrected with Christ 

This miraculous spiritual truth of being placed into union with Christ doesn’t stop with dying in Christ.  When we were immersed into Christ, not only were we united with His death, but we also were joined with His resurrection.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Again, God, operating in the eternal present, sees us at this very instant already resurrected “in Christ.”  Paul said that God has raised us up (already) together with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).  Note again the past tense!

Seated with Christ 

Not only have we been crucified with Christ and resurrected with Him, but we are also already seated with Christ in heaven. Upon arriving into heaven when Christ ascended from the Mount of Olives, He took His place seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1).  Since we are “in Christ,” and have forever been “in Him,” we are already seated with Him in heaven (Ephesians 2:6). This is amazing spiritual truth but is has the potential to motivate us to live based upon what has happened to us and where we are.

God does not give us these glimpses into His eternal world just to impress us, but to inspire us to live for Him. We should begin to live our lives based upon our forever position in Christ. The more we learn about our true identity, the more we are encouraged to live like who we are.

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

Which is more important, what we know or how we live?  The fact is they’re both equally important. One cannot obey what has not been learned. This spiritual knowledge should affect first our thinking concerning our true identity and then it should affect our service to God in this life. We should be encouraged and motivated to live out in time our new resurrected life. We should walk in newness of life.

Why the Cross?

October 31, 2008

My youngest grandson’s name is Felix. We call him “Beeks.” The reason? Granddaughter Karis Grace couldn’t say “Felix” when she was small.  It came out “Beeks.” Beeks has a favorite word: “why?” Why granddaddy? Why is your hair white? Why is the hair growing out of your ears, granddaddy?  I want to say, Beeks, see the above answer! Come to think of it, his daddy asked that “why” question constantly. It must run in the family.

I have approached the Bible with the same insatiable desire to know. Why God? Why is it this way? God has answered my questions by giving me some amazing glimpses into His plan.

There is no greater glimpse into God’s unseen world than the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Adam’s sin and fall did not catch God by surprise. He was not caught off guard sitting in heaven wringing His holy hands wondering what to do next. God had already determined that He was going to come into this world and pay the sin debt of death that fallen man owed Him. God already had a Lamb prepared. Peter said that God ordained Christ before the foundation of the world. It was His plan all along to place on display His magnificent grace.

The wages of sin is death! Since God determined to pay that debt, He seemingly had a problem. God as God could not die because God is eternal life. This meant that God was to go through the most amazing transformation in all of human history. The eternal God took upon Himself a body (Hebrews 10:5).  He came into the world conceived by the Holy Spirit within the womb of the Virgin Mary. Therefore, He was untouched by Adam’s sin. He knew no sin! He was not a sinner by birth nor did He ever commit a single act of sin. He came into the world of sinners as a freeborn man. Yet He came for one purpose – that purpose was to die.

Where did He die? He died on a cross! Why the cross? This becomes clear when we read this strange passage from the Old Testament. “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

Paul went back to this very place to explain the death of Christ. He told the Galatians that God never meant for us to keep the law in order to receive the righteousness that we need (Galatians 2:21; 3:21).  Quite the contrary! The law has a spiritual purpose. It is used by the Holy Spirit to reveal that that we all have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. By whose standard have we sinned? By God’s standard revealed in His Ten Commands. We have not kept them perfectly. The law reveals that we have received a curse by having been born in Adam – the curse of spiritual death. Paul then quoted a part of the passage used above to show that when Jesus Christ died on the cross He took that very curse in His body. Paul said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Jesus Christ hung on a tree, and by hanging on that tree He was cursed for us!

How did He bear our curse?  He died the death that we died in Adam the first. How did we die in Adam? We died spiritually! We became separated from God. Catch this amazing glimpse! Jesus spoke several words as He hung on the cross but none more powerful than these. He screamed, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The reason is mind boggling! We begin to plumb the depths of it when we realize that throughout His ministry on earth our Lord had referred to the first person of the Trinity as “Father.” This is a term of relationship!

But here He shocks us by referring to His father with the impersonal “my God.”  What was happening? At this moment Jesus Christ actually became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He took the curse of being separated from God for us (Galatians 3:13). God the Father separated Himself from God the Son.  God’s eyes were too holy to look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Jesus Christ died spiritually in our place!  What a magnificent scene! His last words spoken from the cross have shouted to the world for centuries telling us that our sin has been paid for in full. These words are “It is finished.”

His death happened over 2000 years ago. How do we receive the amazing benefits of His death today? Next time!