Heaven or Hell? Part 2
A few days ago, I received a comment in connection with my post "Two Future Destinations." I have refrained from accepting the comment only because the commentor was promoting some material which I believe to be anti-Biblical (and for future reference, this is going to be a new rule of mine: no posting links which promote such material; all such posts will be promptly deleted). I have nothing against the commentor and I encourage discussion, but I do not appreciate the promotion of material which does not agree with the Scriptures. However, I felt it was important to clarify my stance on this subject, since I am aware that there are some people who do not believe in hell. (A note to the commentor: I have addressed a small portion at the end of this post specifically for you. However, I want to make it perfectly clear that whenever I do this, I am in no way attacking the person, but rather the belief. I want to stress that what one believes does not bother me; people have the choice to believe whatever they want to believe. However, I cannot refrain from speaking my own opinion of what I believe is the truth based upon the Scriptures.) So here is my position on this topic:
Some people believe that there is no hell. This rejection of hell is based upon this principle, more or less: since God is love, God could not BE God and get satisfaction out of sending people to hell, because that would not be loving; therefore hell does not exist. And this much I will agree with: that God does not get satisfaction out of watching people burn in Hell. I believe it grieves God to see His creation punished in Hell. However, as much as He desires to save them from Hell and bring them to Heaven, He cannot; He already gave them that chance on earth and they rejected it (for whatever reason). If He were to change His mind and let every person in Hell into Heaven, they would be no different then they were on earth -- the lying, stealing, or just plain disobedient people that they were; it's in their nature. Sin is in our nature; without Christ, we are nothing. I think we can all agree that apart from Christ, we would be the most pathetic sinners in the world. So if someone does not have Christ, the Scriptures state, "He is NOT His." If he is not His, then it follows that he cannot be where God is; that is only the inheritance for those who are Christ's. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." When speaking of the new Heaven and the new earth, Revelation 22:15 states, "But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie," and in chapter 21:8, "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Mark 9:43-48 states, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-- where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-- where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire-- where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'" Here, Jesus used a parable of sorts; in ancient times, the Jews had fire pits constantly burning; they would fuel these pits with their trash. The picture thus painted is of a continuous fire burning; it is never quenched. And Jesus used this illustration to show that the trash of sin needs to be cast away from us or we might end up in that fire! Matthew 25: 41-46 again clarifies the continuous fire: "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Matthew 13:48 says, "The kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet which, when it was cast into the sea, drew up some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away."Where did they throw the bad away to? I believe that Matthew 8:11-12 clarifies this quite well, "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 'But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
Luke 13: 24-28 "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out."
Jesus was giving them a warning; they had time to repent, but they would not. In fact, Jesus wept over the lack of repentance in Jerusalem even though He had given them many warnings; He said, "How often, I wanted to gather you and your children within you like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing..." 1 Peter 3:18-20 says, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water."
We can learn many things from this Scripture: first, God is longsuffering. The Scriptures state that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to the knowledge of the truth." However, many are not willing to come to the truth that they may be saved, which brings me to the second point: It's our choice how we will respond. If we blame God for sending people to hell, we are shifting the blame; God didn't do the sin; we did. It's not God's fault if we end up in hell; it was what we chose to do. (Based upon this point, God does not send anyone to hell, as many people claim; people send themselves there by choice.) That is why I included this Scripture in the post: "Your iniquities have separated you from you God." Just before that, the Scripture says that the Lord's hand is not short that it cannot save, nor His ear deaf that it cannot hear. So that brings me to the third point: I stated before that God is longsuffering, but this Scripture goes a step further to state that Jesus "went and preached to the Spirits in prison." I believe that this is speaking of Hell, because other passages suggest that Jesus went to hell at the crucifixion (see Mt 12:40; Ps 16:10, Rom 10:6-7). (Also consider that "spirits" can escape any ordinary prison, so this must mean something beyond natural.) But it states that Jesus preached to these spirits; in other words, He gave them a second chance! The Lord's arm is not short that it cannot save! In fact, many times when David felt like he was in a situation akin to hell, he would state something like this: "I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. When the waves of death surrounded me, The floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry entered His ears" (2 Samuel 22: 4). God can save every person who calls upon Him. But the problem is, as I stated before, that those who are in hell don't want to change; if they did, they would have considered their actions and repented before it was too late. In Jesus' story about the rich man and Lazarus, we can see that the rich man lived in luxury on the earth without stopping to think of the consequences later. Then, when he wanted to be comforted in hell, he could not have his wish. Too often, people just go along there merry way without thinking about eternity, thinking, "I've got time to do whatever I want and repent later." But no one knows when his time on earth will end; that's why we must always be ready to meet our Maker.
That is why there is such a place as hell. God loves everyone, I agree, but He cannot look on sin; and if someone won't repent, he must reap the consequences of his sins. It's much like our laws today; if someone commits a crime, he must be punished. So it is with God. He makes the rules, and He is our Judge. So if we sin, we reap consequences; that's a given. But if we continue to sin, we will eventually reap eternal consequences. Hebrews 10:26-31 states, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The God that I worship is a jealous God; He wants things done just so. Since His instructions are to be followed to a "t," if someone is not following His plan, He will let him know as a warning so that he can correct it (longsuffering). However, if he does not heed the warning, there are consequences -- he will "heap judgment on himself." We cannot worship sin and expect God to let us into Heaven (because that's the only choice if there is no hell). What kind of a picture does that paint? A holy, just God letting unholy, unjust, unclean sinners into Heaven for eternity -- those who have been granted multiple chances to repent and have not? I don't think so. That would not be Heaven; THAT would be hell. True, Jesus' Blood covers our sins and makes us whiter than snow, but "how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" We must obey the Lord; "you cannot serve God and mammon." The Lord commanded, "You shall have no other gods before Me." No, Jesus said that those who were faithful in little would be entrusted with much; "enter into the joy of your Lord" is the reward for those who are faithful, not those who kick back and do nothing while living in their sins "knowing" that they will go to Heaven anyway so it doesn't matter what they do. At best, those who sin, can expect to hear, "Well?" But Jesus said that the faithful will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord." This is why the Scriptures say many times that those trees which do not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Mark 3:10-12 is one such example: "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Also, Matthew 7:17-23 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
Matthew 13: 24-30 states, "Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
And for the commentor (you know who you are), I believe that you misunderstood Luke 9:51-56; Jesus was not referring to hell here. Just because fire rains down on a village does not mean that it is hell; in fact, God rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorah. I believe that Jesus was simply reprimanding the disciples for being too hasty; something happens and "Lord, let's punish 'em!" But Jesus simply told them that He hadn't come to destroy, but to save, again illustrating His longsuffering toward sinners.
I would also like to clarify that, no, Jesus does not want even one person to burn in hell; however, as I have just illustrated, the same Jesus that you call "appauled" to burn people in hell to the point that any referrence to hell on His lips was added decades later is the same Jesus who adimately preached about the horrors of hell as a warning to those who would live ungodly so that they could repent! And His love toward ALL mankind is illustrated through these warnings; He wills that none should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. If all of those Scriptures were additions and not the real truth of God's Word, then why does it say the same thing so many times? The Bible is not altered that much -- all of the copies are in the 90-something percent accuracy margin (I believe it was 98%). If those were all additions, I think that somebody would have caught all those alterations long ago, don't you?
By the way, I'm not "betting" on the fact that there is a hell; I'm staking my life -- my eternity -- on it because Jesus said there is such a place, and I don't want to end up there myself; I want to be where Jesus is! Why did Jesus come to save us from sin if there were no place of punishment? That would be useless; so He saves us from sin even though it doesn't matter because everybody's going to Heaven when they die, anyway -- there's no place called Hell, after all. No, Jesus came to save us from sin so that we could not only be free from it, but also live with Him in Heaven forever -- so that we could escape Hell for eternity!