One of the greatest challenges that faces every pastor is the courage to stay true to his convictions. This is especially true when those convictions, though deeply and clearly rooted in Scripture, are out of step with popular opinion or the prevailing desires of influential church members. I am sure that I am not the only pastor who has been threatened by church leaders with being “fired” if I insisted on teaching and preaching the plain meaning of certain passages of Scripture. Even more common is the subtle pressure that pastors often feel to compromise their convictions for the sake of peace. I have long ago lost count of the number of pastors I know who have suffered serious consequences simply for preaching expository sermons and calling for congregational holiness that is commensurate with the gospel.
A short video from Tom Ascol with a great explaination.
“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell.” So wrote the agnostic British philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1967. The idea of eternal punishment for sin, he further notes, is “a doctrine that put cruelty in the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture.”
His views are at least more consistent than religious philosopher John Hick, who refers to hell as a “grim fantasy” that is not only “morally revolting” but also “a serious perversion of the Christian Gospel.” Worse yet was theologian Clark Pinnock who, despite having regarded himself as an evangelical, dismissed hell with a rhetorical question: “How can one imagine for a moment that the God who gave His Son to die for sinners because of His great love for them would install a torture chamber somewhere in the new creation in order to subject those who reject Him to everlasting pain?”
So, what should we think of hell? Is the idea of it really responsible for all the cruelty and torture in the world? Is the doctrine of hell incompatible with the way of Jesus Christ? Hardly. In fact, the most prolific teacher of hell in the Bible is Jesus, and He spoke more about it than He did about heaven. In Matthew 25:41–46 He teaches us four truths about hell that should cause us to grieve over the prospect of anyone experiencing its horrors.
1. Hell is a state of separation from God.
On the day of judgment, Jesus will say to all unbelievers, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire” (v. 41). This is the same sort of language that Jesus uses elsewhere to describe the final judgment of unbelievers (see 7:23).
To be separated from God is to be separated from anything and everything good. That is hard to conceive because even the most miserable person enjoys some of God’s blessings. We breathe His air, are nourished by food that He supplies, and experience many other aspects of His common grace.
On earth even atheists enjoy the benefits of God’s goodness. But in hell, these blessings will be nonexistent. Those consigned there will remember God’s goodness, and will even have some awareness of the unending pleasures of heaven, but they will have no access to them.
This does not mean that God will be completely absent from hell. He is and will remain omnipresent (Ps. 139:7–8). To be separated from the Lord and cast into hell does not mean that a person will finally be free of God. That person will remain eternally accountable to Him. He will remain Lord over the person’s existence. But in hell, a person will be forever separated from God in His kindness, mercy, grace, and goodness. He will be consigned to deal with Him in His holy wrath.
2. Hell is a state of association.
Jesus says that the eternal fire of hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). People were made for God. Hell was made for the Devil. Yet people who die in their sin, without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, will spend eternity in hell with the one being who is most unlike God. It is a tragic irony that many who do not believe in the Devil in this life will wind up spending eternity being tormented with him in hell.
3. Hell is a state of punishment.
Jesus describes it as “fire” (v. 41) and a place of “punishment” (v. 46). Hell is a place of retribution where justice is served through the payment for crimes.
The punishment must fit the crime. The misery and torment of hell point to the wickedness and seriousness of sin. Those who protest the biblical doctrine of hell as being excessive betray their inadequate comprehension of the sinfulness of sin. For sinners to be consigned to anything less than the horrors of eternal punishment would be a miscarriage of justice.
4. Hell is an everlasting state.
Though some would like to shorten the duration of this state, Jesus’ words are very clear. He uses the same adjective to describe both punishment and life in verse 46. If hell is not eternal, neither is the new heaven and earth.
How can God exact infinite punishment for a finite sin? First, because the person against whom all sin is committed is infinite. Crimes against the infinitely holy, infinitely kind, infinitely good, and infinitely supreme Ruler of the world deserve unending punishment. In addition to that, those condemned to hell will go on sinning for eternity. There is no repentance in hell. So the punishment will continue as long as the sinning does.
The dreadfulness of hell deepens our grateful praise for the salvation we have in Jesus Christ. Hell is what we deserve. And hell is what He experienced on the cross in our place.
Believing the truth about hell also motivates us to persuade people to be reconciled to God. By God’s grace those of us who are trusting Christ have been rescued from this horrible destiny. How can we love people and refuse to speak plainly to them about the realities of eternal damnation and God’s gracious provision of salvation?
Clearer visions of hell will give us greater love for both God and people.
The original post can be found here.
[The substance of this article is taken from an address which was delivered at the 1989 American Banner of Truth Conference at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.]
Let me state at the outset what I believe to be the church’s greatest need, and I do so without fear of contradiction by any serious, discerning observer.
The greatest need and one of deepest importance is for the continual manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. I did not say theological theory about the Holy Spirit, or just intellectual understanding — I said, the power of the Holy Spirit; that has to do with experience not words. When we begin thinking and studying what the Bible has to say about the Holy Spirit and the believer, we are immediately into experimental awareness. I am talking about that which makes men aware of and sure of the reality of Jesus–the Living Christ.
Many preachers have little or nothing to say about experimental awareness of God. Not much is heard in our churches about the anointing through which men are made sure of the reality of Jesus as proclaimed by the apostles. 1
John 2:20,27 is what I am talking about: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One. . . . But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you.”
The Holy Spirit is a live subject on the contemporary scene, and many of the qualified people are not saying enough about Him. And some unqualified people are often saying too much and often saying many inaccurate things which sometimes leads to fanaticism and hypocrisy. There are few subjects more important to the Christian and the Christian minister because the Holy Spirit is the source of all spiritual life, all spiritual worship, all spiritual ordinances, all spiritual witnessing and all spiritual service; He is also the “Divine Agent of Evangelism.”
The Holy Spirit is to the life of the Christian what the Creator is to the world. Without God the Creator the world would not exist and without His continuing, sustaining, and preserving work the world would crash out of existence. So likewise, without the Holy Spirit there would be no Christians in the world and without His continual sanctifying influence the Christian would know no spiritual growth or power.
The churches of the reformation gave much emphasis to the work of the Holy Spirit. The reformers stressed that what is necessary for correct interpretation of the Bible is not the church, but rather the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit on man’s mind.
Spurgeon said, “One of the most effectual ways for a church to revive herself is to preach much about the Holy Spirit; after all He is the very breath of the church. And when a church, a minister or a Christian finds that it Continue reading
Staying in His Lane – Al Mohler takes a look at a recent interview that Joel Osteen did this past week.
The Many Motivators For Personal Holiness – A 4 minute video interview with Kevin DeYoung on his book, The Hole in Our Holiness.
Introduction to the New Testament – Louis Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament in 3 formats.
Conduct Worthy of the Gospel in Corporate Worship – If there is gospel etiquette for the gathered church, it starts with evaluating my heart.
What Does Sola Scriptura Mean – Just in case you ever wondered.
When Study isn’t Study – What is proper Bible study.
We can no longer assume that just because a church is Southern Baptist it therefore genuinely understands the gospel and knows how it works to save sinners. – Tom Ascol