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TEXT: Psalm 18:30

SUBJECT: Doctrine of Hell #7: The Goodness (part 2)

In our last afternoon study, I took up the indefensible work of defending the Goodness of Hell. No decent person could be happy that people are going to Hell, and when they get there, they're going to stay there forever. I am not happy about this; the weeping Savior was not happy about this; and God Himself has never taken-

Pleasure in the death of the wicked, but [always prefers] them to turn and live.

What I mean is simply this: Hell is no blot on God's character and, when preached, it promotes the welfare of both saints and sinners. This is what I mean by the Goodness of Hell. We mustn't apologize for Hell or think less of God for it. For Hell, like all the ways of God, is-

Perfect.

THE REVIEW

Last time, we saw that Hell is Good because it makes God look good. Hell is not a demonstration of His cruelty or injustice, but, rather of God's (1) holiness, (2) justice, (3) power, and (4) compassion. The first three are obvious, but the fourth is a bit trickier.

But, tricky or not, it's true. God shows His compassion on the suffering peoples of the world by calling their oppressors to account. Hell means Hitler and Stalin and Mao and the other haters of mankind did not get away with it! The blood of the martyrs will be avenged. The single word for that is.Hell.

This is what we looked at last time. Now, how Hell promotes the good of sinners and saints.

GOOD FOR SINNERS

We'll start with sinners. No sermon is more likely to offend sinners than a sermon on Hell. If, in your private witnessing, you tell people that 'Jesus works for me and He'll work for you too', you might well get a sympathetic hearing. But, if you tell that same person that-if he doesn't repent of his sins and believe the Gospel-that he is sure to be damned forever, he's not going to like it. He's going to call you intolerant, a hater, a buster, and one the dirtiest work in our culture-

A bully.

If talking about Hell is likely to get this kind of response from sinners, how can it be good for them? Well, let me put it to you this way: What doctor is more likely to be thanked for his diagnosis?

The one who says, 'the results were negative' or the one who says, 'It's cancer'? Everyone with a belly ache or a mole or a persistent cough wants to hear 'you're fine'. But is lying to the cancer patient good for him or bad? It makes him feel better for a day or a week or maybe a month, but in the long run, it's the worst thing a doctor could tell him. Especially since most cancers are treatable and many are curable. If only the patient with take the treatment. But what patient will undergo surgery or radiation or chemo unless he knows he has cancer? I certainly wouldn't have; no sane person would.

But this is what preaching Hell is: it's telling one that his sins are worse than cancer and that there's a cure for it-the Gospel-if only he will take it. But, again, who would take the Gospel if he were good without it?

The doctrine of Hell is good for the sinner, therefore, because it reveals his true condition-and what to do about it.

Here, let me add a personal note. I professed faith when I was eight years old, and-as far as know-that's when I was converted. But, let me now tell you why, humanly speaking, I trusted Jesus as my Savior.

It wasn't because I was overcome by a deep sense of sin-I wasn't, at the time. It was also not because I had a vivid sense of the Glory of the Christ. I didn't have that, not in 1967, I didn't. What brought me to faith in Christ more than fifty years ago was the doctrine of Hell! I didn't want to go to Hell then any more then I do now. This was the thing, the fear, the faith, even, that caused me to believe in Christ and have God's wrath-taken off me!

If God saves children, He doesn't do it by convicting us of our womanizing or drunkenness or other sins we haven't committed. He does it in His own way, and, in for me, it was convincing me of Hell and of Jesus as the Only Way Out!

The Fear of Hell is not the highest motive to break with our sins and flee to Christ, but it is a motive, it has worked, and the preachers in the Bible haven't been ashamed to use i. John the Baptist, for example, said-

Flee from the wrath to come.

And, more tellingly, it was our Lord Jesus Himself who said-

Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Hell.

If the fear of Hell brings sinners to Christ, it is good for them. Even if, at first, they think otherwise.

GOOD FOR SAINTS

The Doctrine of Hell is also good for saints. Because I've covered most of this over the past several sermons, I'll be brief today.

The Doctrine of Hell is good for saints because it humbles us. We tend to think of other people's sins as awful, and our own as, 'not that bad'. But, is this a true assessment? It is-if people are damned for every sin but the sort I commit. Is that the way it is? Or, does the Bible say that the wages of sin, all sin, every sin-is death? Including the respectable sins that nice church-boys like myself commit?

If every sin from mass murder to giving into a fleeting sexual lust damns-and deserves to damn-every sinner to Hell-including me, then Hell puts me right where I belong, next to Judas Iscariot-broken before the Lord whom I have betrayed.

Nobody is saved without first believing that he's going to Hell, and believing you're going to Hell means you're a low down, rotten sinner. Like everybody else. Including the people you look down on.

The Doctrine of Hell is also good for saints because it makes us grateful to God. We have not saved ourselves; God has! And what He has saved us from is unimaginably bad!

If the doctor told you, 'You don't have a cold', you ought to be thankful you don't. But if he says, 'You don't have cancer', that makes you far, far more grateful! That's the effect it had on me when those lesions on my liver were only a fatty liver, and not the return of cancer that had more scared out of my mind!

Not even Paul can find the words to sufficiently praise the Lord for-

Delivering us from so great a death.

Knowing that there is a Hell and that you were on your way there-till the Lord rescued you-makes you grateful.

The Doctrine of Hell, thirdly, stirs your compassion and zeal for reaching the lost. It is easy to become self-centered and hard-hearted. A long and serious meditation on Eternal Damnation will change all that. For even the most selfish and indifferent Christian cannot think about the Hell his friends and family are on their way to, without being moved with compassion, and spurred to prayer and witnessing!

Anything that softens our hearts, increases our prayers and enhances our evangelism is good for us. Hell does all of the above!

Finally, Hell is good for the saints because it raises our view of the Cross and the Love that lay behind it.

Having suffered very little myself, I would never diminish the sufferings of other people. But in respecting what AIDS patients have endured or Christian witnesses have been subjected to, I have to say that sufferings of Christ were of an altogether different magnitude!

The pains of victims, patients, even martyrs are of an earthly kind-and they are bad enough. Our Lord suffered every one of them Himself-from disappointment, to ridicule to a crown of thorns and more!

But His deepest sufferings were not those common to man! Not at all like the sufferings of Job or of Joseph, or Jeremiah, or David, as appalling as they were. They were the sufferings of Hell! Of Eternal Damnation! On the Cross, our Lord paid the penalty for our sins-and that Penalty is not 'nails in your feet' or 'terrible thirst'. It is separation from God, the very thing He felt when He gathered his waning power to cry out in an almost animal roar-

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

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