Illustration: I once heard Deion Sanders say that as a boy growing up in a poor neighbourhood he was embarrassed of his mom because she worked at the hospital as a janitor and not as a nurse or a doctor. This got me thinking are we every embarrassed of our heavenly father? Are we ever embarrassed or uncomfortable with his character or what the bible says?
I think we are, because eternal hell is not a concept that fits in with the american dream.
We live that in a society full of people in a desperate, relentless pursuit of wealth, comfort, power and status all for the purpose of being completely happy all the time.
The concept of hell is not something that fits into wealth, comfort, power or status, hell is certainly not something that makes anyone happy.
“Deep down in the heart of every person is a hidden desire to reinterpret Jesus in the light of our own culture, political bent, or favorite theological belief” ~ Francis Chan
What Francis Chan says is true and what’s concerning is it’s often seen in Christian circles.
It seems that somewhere along the way the western church determined to avoid talking about hell.
We talk about grace, and mercy, love, kindness etc. because they are a softer sell to non believers.
No one will challenge or question love, mercy kindness and grace. But people will challenge and question hell.
How did Jesus handle the subject? How did Jesus talk about Hell? Did he talk about hell?
The answer is yes, Jesus the one who loves perfectly and pours out mercy and grace without limit spoke about hell more often, and in a more straight forward, terrifying manner than any other biblical author.
In fact Jesus taught about Hell more than all other biblical authors put together.
When Jesus was sharing the gospel with Nicodemus he gave the full explanation of the gospel, he painted the full picture for him.
He spoke about love, sacrificial giving, belief,everlasting life and he also spoke of perishing.
This morning I intend to say it clearly, I wont beat around the bush, I intend to give you the bible, open some scriptures on hell and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
I want to start with the question: Who will perish?
The Bible has lots of verses to answer this question and if you’re interested you can find those for yourself but here is a quick answer.
But a quick answer is this:
2 Thess. 1:7-10 He will come with his mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. 10 When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.
There’s the answer…
“those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News”
What is hell?
The word Jesus uses for 'hell' is Gehenna, a valley in which piles of garbage were daily burned as well as the corpses of those without families who could bury them.
This is what Jesus said about hell:
- Hell is a place of punishment after Judgement. Matt 23:33, Matt 5:22, Matt 25:31-46
- Hell is described in imagery of fire and darkness, where people lament. Matt 5:40-43 & 49-50, Matt. 18:8-9, Matt 22:13, Matt. 25:30
- Hell is a place of never ending punishment. Matt.25:41&45&46
For Christians, Hell is a big part of the faith. If you take hell away everything else is changed as a result.
Hell is important.
But why is it so important? Why is it important to talk about and be mindful of Hell?
Here are some reasons.
- We are reminded of our complete dependance on God’s presence.
Humans were created to be in God’s presence. Everything we do and enjoy and experience is all because of this - because God is present.
Acts 17: 28 “‘In him we live and move and have our being”
But it is possible to be away from God.
The Bible says sin blocks us from God's 'face' (Isaiah 59:2.)
All the life, joy, love, strength, and meaning we have looked for and longed for is found in his face (Psalm 16:11)-that is, in his favor, presence, fellowship, and pleasure.
Remember that blessing found in numbers 6 is that God would have his face shine upon us.
This is a longing of every human being, to see the face of our father look upon us with delight, pleasure and affection.
So for those who choose to remain in sin they never experience this.
For those who refuse to believe the gospel the last words they will hear Jesus speak are the words found in Matthew 7:23 - Depart from me.
If this is true then what does it mean for us to be away from God? If everything we have
If our entire being is found in Jesus, what if we are removed from Jesus? What does that look like?
That is Hell. Hell is the place where God’s presence is removed.
Everything we are collapses when we are no longer in God. This experience begins on earth for those who reject Jesus and it is fully experienced for eternity apart from him.
2. Hell causes urgency within us to tell others about Jesus.
2 Peter 3:10-13The Message (MSG)
10 But when the Day of God’s Judgment does come, it will be unannounced, like a thief. The sky will collapse with a thunderous bang, everything disintegrating in a huge conflagration, earth and all its works exposed to the scrutiny of Judgment.
11-13 Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.
The Bible is clear that at any moment on any day Christ will return. And everyone will be held accountable for their lives.
This should be motivation for us to make sure that we are faithful in letting people know the truth.
It’s not our job to force people into anything. But it is our job to share the good news.
The prospect of Hell is really terrifying.
It is a really, really serious subject and many, many people we all know are going to hell if they don’t accept Jesus.
2 Cor 5:11 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.
When we constantly we don’t tell others and ignore that there is wrathful judgement coming on those who reject christ we put people in real danger.
When Hell is ignored the urgency that we are asked to operate in is non existent.
We need to get over of hollywood understanding of God and realize that He is not like us.
He does not function according to our ideas of justice, morality, grace or sacrifice.
I realize that it super hard to tell people that they are headed for destruction unless they accept Jesus. But remember, it’s not your decision, it’s not your judgement, it’s God’s.
“We need to stop explaining away hell and start proclaiming HIS solution to it”.
~ Francis Chan
Now, do I think we should a all start hitting the street corners, malls restaurants and business and start telling everyone to turn or burn? Absolutely not. But I am saying that we need to trust that when we are sharing our faith (which we are all called to do) with someone, Hell needs to be part of the story, because it is part of our story.
If there is no Hell your salvation is really not that impressive.
One of my favourite bands Mumford and Sons has a song called not with haste. The song has a line in it that I have loved since the first time I heard it because it really explains how we should approach sharing the gospel.
“and I will love with urgency and not with haste”
We can never be hasty or forceful, but the importance of the warning does call for urgency.
3. The doctrine of Hell is the only way to see how much God loves us.
I want to start this question with a fairly long quote from one of my favourite teacher/preachers, Tim Keller.
In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says that no physical destruction can be compared with the spiritual destruction of hell, of losing the presence of God. But this is exactly what happened to Jesus on the cross-he was forsaken by the Father (Matthew 27:46.) In Luke 16:24 the rich man in hell is desperately thirsty (v.24) and on the cross Jesus said "I thirst" (John 19:28.) The water of life, the presence of God, was taken from him. The point is this. Unless we come to grips with this "terrible" doctrine, we will never even begin to understand the depths of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was being destroyed in the worst possible way, but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him he was experiencing hell itself. But consider--if our debt for sin is so great that it is never paid off there, but our hell stretches on for eternity, then what are we to conclude from the fact that Jesus said the payment was "finished" (John 19:30) after only three hours? We learn that what he felt on the cross was far worse and deeper than all of our deserved hells put together. ~ Tim Keller
Jesus experienced hell so that we never have to.
Jesus saved us from judgement and punishment by taking it all for us.
The contrast of hell and heaven is literally the contrast of death and life.
When we consider hell we have no choice but to see the incredible act of love Jesus’s death is.
Salvation is to be saved from hell and promised eternity with Jesus. We need to guard ourselves from ever reducing his work on the cross to a nice gesture from a man who was super kind and likes me.
It’s not just that Jesus likes you, it’s that he saved you from hell!
“Hell is the backdrop the reveals the profound and unbelievable grace of the cross, It brings to light the enormity of our sin and therefore portrays the undeserved favour of God in full color.” ~ Francis Chan
This morning you have heard that God’s presence is what literally gives us life and meaning.
You have heard that hell is real and judgment and punishment await those outside of the justification gained through Jesus.
Lastly you have heard that God’s love is only fully realized when we see what we are saved from.
And for those of us who are saved, we are promised eternal life with Jesus, that is our great hope and our topic for next week.
Pastor Zac Eagle
* This teaching was was inspired by an article by Tim Keller titled: The Importance of Hell and the Book, Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We Made Up by Francis Chan.