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TEXT: Hebrews 10:28-31
SUBJECT: Doctrine of Hell #3: Witness of the Apostles
Today, we come to part three in our afternoon study of the awful doctrine of Hell. Here, I'm using the word, 'awful' in both its current sense and also the older one. Now, 'awful' means 'very bad, terrible'-and Hell is this. But, Hell is also 'awful' in the sense of 'awesome', that is a thing that we have to take with the utmost seriousness. When it comes to Hell, very, very few people do this. Many don't believe in it at all; others believe in it, but think it's only for people like Adolf Hitler; still others believe Hell is for all sinful men, but-thank God!-they're not as other men are! But, of course, they are. We are. You are. I am-
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
.which means, every one of us deserves Hell, and everyone who is now saved once was not, and had he died in that condition, would have suffered-
The blackness of darkness forever.
No moralizing priest or red-faced preacher invented Hell, God did! And no one told us more about it, or warned us more often about going there than our Lord Jesus Christ.
You have to wonder why He taught it more frequently and in more detail than the prophets who came before Him or the Apostles who followed Him, and to this I can only say, 'I don't know'. Maybe RC Sproul (I think) was right in saying that, If anyone else had taught it, nobody would have believed him. That may be true. Maybe the doctrine is so appalling, so monstrous, so unimaginable that we needed the direct and personal authority of Christ to believe it. In any event, He did teach it. And because the Apostles were His spokesmen, after His Resurrection, it should not surprise us that they did too. This is today's topic: The Witness of the Apostles to the Doctrine of Hell. (For the sake of this study, the term applies, not only to the Twelve and Paul, but also to the men who wrote under their supervision in the New Testament).
PAUL ON HELL
I suppose the best place to start this survey is with the writings of Paul. For Paul Hell is more often assumed than it taught, but in a couple of places, he spells it out for us, Romans 2:5 and II Thessalonians 1:5-10. In the first, Paul says-
But in accordance with the hardness of your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
This is not the first time Paul brings up wrath in Romans. As far back as 1:18, he speaks of the-
The wrath of God being revealed.
God's wrath was already-in the First Century-coming down on sinners. How? He explains how in the verses that follow. God gives them up to folly, to sin, and to every kind of perversion, especially of a sexual nature. Paul isn't saying, 'These things will be punished some day', but that 'They themselves are punishments'. This is where he leaves it in Chapter 1, with people making their own Hell on Earth.
But in Chapter 2, he assures us that the judgment that is already falling on sinners will, some future day fall more fully than before. Sinners are 'storing up wrath' the way a miser hoards his money. One day, they'll get what's coming to them-all that's coming to them. In other words, one day Hell on Earth will become.Hell in Hell!
He makes the same point in II Thessalonians 1:5-10, where (I won't take time to read it) the disciples are told to accept the persecution sinners are inflicting on them because, one day, when Christ comes again, they themselves will be vindicated and their enemies will be-
Punished with everlasting destruction from the Presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.
From these two passages in Paul, we learn the following for sure:
Paul's teaching, then, while far briefer than the Lord's, is perfectly consistent with it, especially His teaching in Matthew 25:31ff.
After Paul, Peter was the most important Apostle, and his testimony is also perfectly consistent with what he heard from Jesus. In his Second Epistle, Chapter 2, he catalogues the long history of sin, mentioning false prophets, greedy preachers, fallen angels, the people who lived before the Flood, Sodom and Balaam. These angels and men were definitely punished, some with water, other brimstone, and so on, but these judgments, he assures us, point to another Judgment, even more terrible, II Peter 2:17-
To whom the gloom of darkness is reserved forever.
If the Sodomites were punished in this world (at least), then there's a judgment in the world to come as well, a punishment never-ending.
JUDE AND HEBREWS
In his short Epistle, Jude says almost exactly the same thing Peter wrote. The two are so much alike, in fact, that critics of the Bible see one or the other a cheap copy of the other. I'd rather believe that they were written to different people, in need of the same warning. Or, perhaps to the same people who needed a second warning. But again, Jude 14, 13-
The Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all who are ungodly.for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
I found Hebrews 10:28-31 even more interesting (that's why I used it as our text). What we have here is a comparison between 'sinning against Moses' and 'sinning against Christ'. The former was punished by physical death, v.28-
Anyone who sins against Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If you've read Exodus to Deuteronomy, you know that happened from time to time-for the fornicators at Baal-Peor, for the blasphemer, the man who worked on the Sabbath, and so on. They died under the curse of the Law, and without mercy.
But now, having reminded his readers what happened to the people who despised Moses, the author of Hebrews says-
Of how much worse punishment do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled underfoot the Son of God?
In the earlier chapters, the writer has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses. From this fact, he reasons that sinning against Jesus is greater than sinning against Moses, and therefore, deserves a greater punishment.
Bu what punishment could be greater than dying under the curse of God in this world? How about taking that curse out of this world and into the world to come? In other words, Hell.
This brings us to John, the only man to (somewhat) approach Jesus as the bringer of Bad News. Of course, I mean his Revelation, which ends with the City of God descending to earth, decorated for a Great Wedding.
The guests at that wedding will be out of their minds with happiness, but not everyone will be a guest. For the City, while open for some, will be locked tight against others, Revelation 22:15-
For outside are dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and makes a lie.
This is terrible news for us! For every one of us is guilty of some or all of these things, at least 'on the inside'. But earlier, back in 7:14, we see that some sinners were there, because they had-
Washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.
But, not everyone washes in the blood! In other words, not everyone believes in Christ, and those who don't are banished from the Presence of God.
And not just that! A couple of chapters before, Revelation 20:15, we find these very same people, the people here described as not written in the Book of Life, not only left out of Heaven, but-
Cast into the Lake of Fire.
The Apostles have been faithful to their assignment. Since Jesus had more to tell us than He had time to, in person, He turned the rest of the work over to Peter, Paul, John, and the others. Every one of them has, to some degree or other, taught the Doctrine of Hell, and taught it in a way consistent to what they were taught by the Master.
Of course, Paul didn't go into the same detail as Jesus did, but he also didn't water it down! How could he and the others stray from their special calling? If they had, they'd have been as bad as Judas-in betraying the Lord!-and what's worse, we wouldn't be here, the Church, I mean, for the Church-both universal and local-is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone!
What have we learned from this quick survey of the Epistles? This much, at least:
It is hard to read such a list without tearing up. Because we shouldn't read such a list of horrors without dissolving it tears:
Tears of Joy, knowing that we deserve the same punishment that the others will suffer!
Tears of Compassion, for the people who must suffer it, being no worse than we are.
Hopefully, tears of Repentance, resolving today to 'do something about it', to pray for our friends more than we have, to set a better example for them, and to witness to them more and better than we have in the past.
If there's a 'to do' in this sermon, here's what it is: Meditate on the damnation of sinners, and then get out there and do all you can to save them from it. Amen.
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