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TEXT: Matthew 10:28
SUBJECT: Doctrine of Hell #2: Witness of the Gospels
Today, we come to part two in our afternoon study of the Doctrine of Hell. Last time, we surveyed the Witness of the Old Testament, and found it rather murky. It does not clearly teach what we think of as Hell, but.it lays the groundwork for the Doctrine, and hints at some of the details. This is why the Apostles, who firmly believed every word of the Old Testament, found no contradiction between what it suggested and what our Lord spelled out.
This, then, is our topic for now: The New Testament Witness to Hell. Is the Traditional Doctrine of Hell really taught in the New Testament? It is awfully hard to read the Epistles of Paul, Peter, and Jude and think it isn't. And, this goes double for Revelation! Now, if these Apostles all believed in Hell, you have to wonder why. Were they hateful men, who relished the thought of 'the bad guys' roasting forever in Eternal Fire? Their love for people was not perfect, of course, but you can't find anything in their lives to make you think they were what the Romans called them (and the whole Early Church)-
Enemies of mankind.
Except for our Lord Jesus, no man was treated more shabbily by his own people than Paul. But did his battles with the Jewish people make him bitter and vengeful toward them? Romans 9-10 say the opposite. Their lostness broke his heart; it energized him to the keenest efforts and threw him into constant prayer. Paul so loved his own people that he swore in God's Name to prefer his own damnation to theirs! Paul was not a hater, but he certainly believed and clearly taught the Doctrine of Hell. As did the other Apostles and their fellow New Testament preachers.
Once again, you have to wonder why. The second possibility is that, being Jews, they got their Doctrine of Eternal Damnation from the Bible or from the rabbis. But, as I said just a moment ago, that while the Old Testament agrees with their teaching, their teaching goes way, way beyond it. As for the rabbis? Two things: Except for Paul, none of the Apostles went to seminary, and so they hadn't carefully studied the rabbinical literature. As for Paul, it must have left some impression on him, but the parts that don't agree with Christ, he rejected with a vengeance! And at great personal cost.
The third answer is also the true one: Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and the others got their Doctrine of Hell from Jesus Christ. To many people, this sounds beyond weird. For Christ is usually portrayed as-
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.
He is this, of course, but this is not all He is. The Lamb of God is also, at the same time, and equally-
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
He is both the Savior of the World and the Judge of the Quick and the Dead. Some He ushers into Heaven; others He consigns to Hell. Not because I say so-or even the Church Universal! It is Christ Himself who says so. As strange as it sounds, Jesus is the Ultimate Fire-and-Brimstone Preacher. Moses, the prophets, not even John the Baptist preached Hellfire and Damnation as often or clearly or frightfully as He did. The Source of the Doctrine of Hell is Christ Himself.
This is not a sectarian doctrine, a narrow belief which a handful of Christians subscribe to. All Traditional Christians-Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, agree with me. And not only the Traditional ones. Theodore Parker was a famous Unitarian preacher in the middle of the 19th Century. In one of his published sermons, he said-
I take not the Bible for my master; nor the church; not yet Jesus of Nazareth as my master. I am ready to believe that Jesus taught, as I think, eternal torment.I do not accept these things on His authority.
In other words, while Parker did not himself believe in the Doctrine of Hell, he had to admit that Jesus certainly taught the Doctrine of Hell.
To my way of thinking, this old heretic is much worthier of our respect than many 'Evangelicals' who claim to submit themselves to the authority of Christ and then deny His obvious teaching on Hell! Or, even if they don't exactly 'deny' it, they might as well, because they never bring it up!
THE TEACHING: MATTHEW
The fact that Christians have always believed Jesus taught the Doctrine of Hell makes you think He did, but it doesn't quite reach the level of proof. For that, we turn to the words of our Lord in the Gospels.
Here, I struggled mightily to decide what text to use-because there are so many of them! Matthew 10:28 seemed as good as any, plus it's striking and easy to remember.
The topic is fearing man, which the disciples had a very good reason to do. The authorities in Israel hated Jesus and meant to silence Him by any means necessary. The hatred that was now focused on Him would soon be turned on the disciples. They, too, would be hated, persecuted, and killed-one even dying by Crucifixion! The disciples, therefore were not paranoid and they weren't sissies! They were scared men who had a reason to be scared!
To them, our Lord says-
Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
'Killing the body' sounds awfully scary to me.and it is, if you compare it to other human punishments, such as being laughed at or not liked or even losing your job. So, why shouldn't we fear the people who can crucify us or cut our heads off?
It's because that's all they can do; as bad as physical death is, there is something far worse. It's what Jesus calls-
Destroying the soul.
What's that? He tells us-
Destroy body and soul in hell.
As far as the Him is concerned, it clearly refers to God, who can do something far worse than kill us, even by crucifixion. That 'worse' thing He can do is called Hell. This gives you the idea that Hell is something worse than 'non-existence', for-if given the choice of 'going to sleep' forever' and being skinned alive, I'd definitely choose non-existence. But Jesus says what God can do to us after death is far worse than what even the cruelest men can do to us before death.
Thus, our Lord believed in and taught the Doctrine of Hell. And not just here. In Matthew 5:21-22, He warns of the reality of Hell, and again, distinguishes it from severe 'earthly' punishments-
Whoever murders shall be in danger of the judgment (that is, human judgment). But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca' shall be in danger of the council. But, whoever says, 'You fool' shall be in danger of hell fire!
Under the Law of Moses, murder was a capital offense; Rome imposed the same penalty. If caught, killing a man would lead to your execution-and that's pretty severe.
But Jesus says the hatred and contempt for other people we so often feel-and get away with (we think)-will catch up to us some day. They put us in danger of something much worse than stoning or hanging. They put us in danger of Hell. Here, our Lord uses the word, Gehenna, which looks back to the Valley of Hinnom where everything unclean was banished from Israel and burned.
These are well-known verses, but perhaps Matthew 25:31-46 is even more famous. Many have called it a parable, but apart from a few figures of speech, it's nothing like that at all. It's a prophecy, even a prediction of things to come-
When the Son of Man comes with all of His holy angels, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.And He will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.and these will go away into everlasting punishment.
For now, never mind the basis for His judgment. That's important in another connection, but on today's topic, it only clouds the issue. When it comes to Hell, here's what it teaches, right on the surface: (1) Jesus decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell; (2) He sends some to Hell; (3) His verdict is just; they get what they deserve; (4) Hell is a place of torment (for what else can fire suggests?); and Hell (5) Never Ends.
There are several other references to Hell in Matthew's Gospel, but if the sermon is ever going to end, we need to move on.
THE TEACHING: MARK, LUKE, JOHN
Mark 9:42-48 is similar to what Matthew 5 and 10. Again, our Lord uses comparisons, this time, between (a) having a millistone tied around your neck and being thrown into the sea and (b) going to Hell, where the fire never goes out. He also compares going through life without a hand, or a foot or an eyeball favorably to being-
Thrown into Hell, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
Living without a food, a hand or an eye is bad; going to Hell is worse. Drowning is a terrifying way to de, going to Hell is worse. This is some of what our Lord teaches in Mark's Gospel.
As for Luke? He tells the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The latter is a homeless and sick man, a real nothing in this world. But when he dies-
The angels carry him to Abraham's bosom.
The other man is rich and honored and well-cared for in this world, but when he dies, he is-
Buried, and lifts up his eyes in hell, being in torments.
Liberal Theology is always quick to point out that, the good guy is poor and the bad guy is rich. Of course, they're right; this is how things are in this particular parable. I wish they'd be equally quick in pointing out what Liberalism has long denied-that sinners actually go to Hell when they die! And they stay there forever!
One last verse, this one from John's Gospel, 5:29, speaking of the Last Day, says-
They who have done good to the Resurrection of Life, and they who have done evil to the Resurrection of Damnation.
I know it's tedious to go from verse to verse to verse, and I don't generally do that. But I couldn't think of any other way to show how often and emphatically Jesus Christ Himself taught on the Doctrine of Hell. The several verses we've gone to, of course, look at it from various angles. But, putting them all together, here's what you get:
You know, some people take great pleasure in scaring others. Go to summer camp, and you're sure to find a boy telling ghost stories around the campfire. Is this what our Lord is doing with His Hell Stories? Is He trying to scare us?
No; He's not doing that. What He's doing is trying to do is warn us. The warning is fully warranted, because there is a Hell for sinners. Everyone needs the warning, because everyone is a sinner! Everyone need to heed the warning now, because no life is sure beyond this very moment. We heed the warning not by 'turning over a new leaf', but by turning to Christ and trusting the Hell He endured on the Cross was Hellish enough to satisfy the justice of God and to-
Save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him.
Since our Savior believed in Hell, taught on Hell, and told us to teach all thing that we ourselves have been taught, let's.
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