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!