Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Purpose and Place of Hell

We have already looked at the reality of hell and dealt with what if it doesn't exist. Next, I want to look at five things: its purpose, place, punishment, why the average Christian doesn't believe in it, and the provision that God has made for us all against going there.

First, let's take a look at the purpose of hell. Really? Why must there be one anyway? Our Lord answers this in Matthew 25:41 when he said, “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” So, it was initially prepared for the devil and his angels. 

We see this historical account in Isaiah 14:12-17 where it recounts, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; 17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?" In other words, it was not prepared for man at all.

However, for man, just like the devil and his angels, hell is the natural and inevitable consequence of sin. Sin must be punished in God's economy. Sin damns just as water drowns and fire burns. Hell is God’s penitentiary for the wicked. The Psalmist said, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:1). Just as we have prisons for those who refuse to keep the laws of earth, so God has a way of dealing with those who refuse to keep His. It is the legitimate end of a sinful, Christ-rejecting, God-dishonoring life.

Second, we are going to look at the place of hell. The Bible describes it as a real place and not simply a state of mind like some have wishfully suggested. As such, the Bible says several things to confirm this. The first of which is that it is a place of separation from God's presence and blessing as we have previously mentioned in Matthew 25:41-42. It is a separation from everything that is good. 

The Bible also says that it is a place of fire. Fire all throughout the Bible is symbolic of Divine judgment, but make no mistake, this judgment is not symbolic. Our Lord said in Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that 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.” No symbolic language to be found there. 

The Bible also says that hell is a place of fire. Our Lord said in Mark 9:43 “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.” When the rich died, he declared that he was in literal flames in Luke 16:24 when he cried, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Just assuredly as the gold of heaven is real, so are the flames of hell.

Finally, another proof text that hell is a real place with a real fire that will never cease to burn is found in Matthew 25:41 when our Lord said that one day 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.” Make no mistake, hell has a purpose and is a real place. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What If There Is No Hell?

In my last blog, we looked at the reality of hell according to the Scriptures. Today, I want to address the question to the best of ability, "What if there is really no hell?" Just some things to think about. I am sure that there could be more. 

Just a few things to think about. First, if there is no hell, then the Bible is just a fairy tale and cannot be trusted. If some parts of it are true and some parts of it are false, how are we to determine which is which? Rely on the experts? Second, if there is no hell, the prophets, apostles, and preachers of old were all liars at worst and deluded at best. The same could be said of Jesus. Third, if there is no hell, Jesus' death on the cross was a mistake and really served no purpose because he would have saved us from nothing. Fourth, if there is no hell, then there is no heaven either; and if there was, what would be the point?  Fifth, if there is no hell, Christianity is of little use other than possibly for a set of moral codes. Even then, those codes would be built upon the lies and delusions of others. Sixth, if there is no hell to receive us, then there is no God to condemn us. In the end, if there is no hell, Christianity is false and virtually a waste of time.

This reminds me of a story of two men who were fishing two or three miles from a dangerous waterfall. Eventually, after a little conversation, they got on the subject of hell.  One man asked his friend, “Do you believe in hell?” “No,” replied the other man. All of a sudden they looked up and found they were about fifty feet from the falls. They grabbed the paddles, pulled for dear life toward the shore, and finally reached safety. The fellow said, “I thought you didn’t believe in hell, what was the matter when you thought that you were going to die?” He responded, “Listen, this business of no hell is alright to go fishing with, but not over the falls with.” I explain it to people this way. If there is no hell, I have absolutely nothing to lose. I would have lived a moral life. However, if there is a hell, you will lose everything.

To that same point, there is an occasion when Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, an agnostic lecturer of the last century, was announced to give an address on hell. He declared he would prove conclusively that hell was a wild dream of some scheming theologians who invented it to terrify credulous people. As he was launching into his subject, a half-drunken man arose in the audience and exclaimed, "Make it strong, Bob. There are a lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong, we are all lost. So be sure you prove it clear and plain."

I believe that there have been two occasions for great joy among Satan and his angels since creation. The first is when he tricked Eve by telling her that she would not suffer the consequences of her disobedience, and the second, when he persuaded preachers to not preach on the subject of hell anymore. After all, we’re an educated society! It is repugnant to reason! It is on the level of “Dante’s Inferno”. It is the product of a crazy person. We live in the age of enlightenment.  No one believes in hell anymore, right?

My summation is quite simple. Either the Bible is true or it is not. Stop playing games. It is one or the other, and nothing in between. You believe in its totality or you don't. It clearly teaches that there is a heaven for the saints and a hell for the aints. Denying it will not erase it no matter how much we wish it so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is There Really a Hell?

I open this blog with the humorous story of a new believer who was on a plane with an intellectual nonbeliever. He sneered at her reading the Bible. Asked if she believed it? "Yes." "Jonah and the whale story?" "Yes." "How did it happen?" "Don't know, but I'll find out when I get to heaven." "What if Jonah isn't there?" "Then I guess you'll have to ask him for me." Of course, the supposition of this little story is that men either go to one of two places after death: heaven or hell. 

I was speaking with a young man the other day who really had a lot of questions about the afterlife. In particular, he seemed more concerned with the issue of hell. I have found that most people find heaven much easier to believe in than hell. Of course, the best place to search this subject out is the Scriptures themselves. Our Lord spoke on the subject more than any other, if you can imagine that. I can only conclude that he might have been a bit concerned that none of us go there. In Matthew 13:24-30, he said, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." He continued in verses 37-43, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
He also spoke on the subject in Mark 9:42-48 when he said, "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

Unfortunately, while our Lord spoke of it frequently, twice as much as heaven, it is not spoken of very much in the church today. As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that most church members do not truly believe in it at all even though the New Testament refers to it some 162 times.

So, what are some of the prevailing thoughts on the subject today? Some will say that it is repugnant to reason. To be direct, the very thought of a literal hell tends to be a bit too simple for our finite minds to grasp. Others will go on to say that the very thought of hell is a nightmare of a disordered mind. Something akin to "Dante’s Inferno”. It must be simply the product of a crazy person. Finally, others say that hell is an antiquated, moth-eaten, disproven theory which belongs to the age of superstition. After all, we live in the age of enlightenment. No one believes in hell anymore, right? Gotta be just a flashback to a product of our superstitious past. Well, I say to that that no one believed in rain in Noah's day, but it still destroyed them all. The bottom line is that unbelief does not negate reality.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Is The Virgin Birth Optional?

I remember one time as a younger student at a Christian university in South Carolina, we were asked if the virgin birth was necessary for salvation. I, unlike most of the younger students in the class, responded with an emphatic yes. The professor then proceeded to explain why it was not by pointing out Romans 8:9-10 to prove that only faith was required. I then proceeded to remind him, I was a bit older than most of the students in the class, that without the virgin birth, Romans 8:9-10 would be irrelevant, for if Christ was not born of a virgin, then he was conceived in sin just like the rest of us. 

This backdrop brings me to the texts at hand today: the genealogies of Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38. Matthew is the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph. Luke is the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. A careful study of these two genealogies would reveal that they are identical except in two points: 1. the genealogy of Joseph works forward and Mary’s works backward, and 2. they differ from King David on. In Matthew 1:6, we discover that the genealogy works from David through Solomon to Joseph, while in Luke 3:31, the genealogy works from one of David's other sons, Nathan, to Mary.

Why is this important? - Because it proves the necessity of the virgin birth. In Joseph’s genealogy through Solomon, it goes through a king by the name of Jeconiah (or Coniah), while Mary's does not. In Jeremiah 22:24-30, it says, "As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah." 

In the end, if Joseph were truly the biological father of Jesus, he would not be qualified to sit on the throne of David because of this curse. That is why the Bible says in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” No, the virgin birth is not optional.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?

As I mentioned in the last post, our Lord knew exactly why Nicodemus was there and what Nicodemus needed. He knew that he was a slave to sin and that is why he told in John 3:3 that he needed to be born again when he said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." This is the first time in the Bible “born again” is mentioned. 

What does it mean to be “born again”? In its simplest terms, it means to be born a second time. The Bible teaches that all men are born physically, but they also need to be born a second time or “again” spiritually. This is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus.

In v.4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Obviously, Nicodemus didn’t have a clue as what Jesus meant with the word “born again.” Why? - 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. You see, Nicodemus wasn’t thinking in the spiritual, but in the physical.

In v.5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Notice He says, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus is talking about two different births here. One is a natural birth while the other is a spiritual birth. There is an old saying, “Born once, die twice; Born twice, die once.” In other words, you must have two birthdays: a physical one and a spiritual one.

In v.6, our Lord goes on to explain that that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Man can only give physical life, while God can give both physical and spiritual life.

In v.7, he must have seen some astonishment on his face because he says, "marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Nicodemus obviously showed some signs of amazement at what Jesus was saying to him.

In v.8, he says, "the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." In other words, the wind is sovereign and men cannot control it. We can hear the wind, but we can see it. In essence, he saying to Nicodemus to stop trying to see with your physical eyes what you know is there.

In vv.v.9-10 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Now it’s Jesus’ turn to respond in amazement, Jesus is accusing him of being a teacher without any knowledge of his subject.

Our Lord continued to say in vv.11-14 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: Now Jesus bottom lines it for Nicodemus by reminding him of a story in the Old Testament. The story is of Moses and the serpents in Numbers 21:1-9 

Through this account in the Old Testamen, our Lord is saying, "Nicodemus, just as Moses lifted up the serpent on the pole in the wilderness so that all could look on it and be saved…so am I going to be lifted up on a cross so that all who look to me can be saved." There are snakes (sin) in all of our lives and unless each and every one of us look to Jesus and the cross, we shall all likewise perish. That is why he said in Luke 13:3, I tell you, Nay, but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

Our Lord goes on to say in vv.15-16 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. You see, your physical birth put you into the family of man, but it’s your spiritual birth that will put you into the family of God! Remember the story of the “The Little Boy and the Duck” and his Grandmother standing at the window? 

I don't know what's in your past. I don't know what one sin the enemy keeps throwing up in your face. But whatever it is, I want you to know something. Jesus Christ was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. And because He loves us, He is ready to forgive us. Perhaps He is just wondering how long we will allow the enemy to make slaves out of us. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Remember the Duck?

In my last blog, I introduced my message that I taught last weekend at Rustburg Baptist Church from the text of John 3:1-16. Today, we get into the text and our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus.

The Bible says in Joh 3:1-2 that there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." There is no doubt that Nicodemus had heard of the fame of Jesus and confesses that we know that thou art a teacher come from God. How did Nicodemus know this? – Because he said for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

Also, notice that Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. Did he do this because he was a just a busy man or because maybe he was ashamed or afraid to be seen talking with Jesus in broad daylight for fear of his fellow religious leaders?  I think that it was fear of what others would think of him.

I tell the students all of that time, “If you fear God, you will not fear men; but if you fear men, you will not fear God.” The Bible says in Proverbs 29:25 that The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

In v.3, our Lord gets straight to the point when he answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Do you notice that Jesus did not thank Nicodemus for the kind words or flattery? Instead, he answers the question that he knew Nicodemus came to ask when he said, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

This was very characteristic of Jesus throughout His ministry in that he did not waste his time or words. In the next chapter, our Lord does the same thing in his conversation with the woman at the well when he cut through the pleasantries in John 4:16 when he asked her to Go, call thy husband, and come hither. You see God knows man and he knows that man has a sin problem and he has the answer to fix it.

At this point, I am reminded of a story about a little boy and a duck. He was visiting his grandparents on their farm. And he was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced but he could never hit the target. And getting a little discouraged, he headed back to dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma's pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, "Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn't you Johnny?" And then she whispered to him, "Remember, the duck?" So Johnny did the dishes. Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, and Grandma said, "I'm sorry but I need Sally to help make supper." But Sally smiled and said, "Well, that's all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help." And she whispered again, "Remember, the duck?" So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's, he finally couldn't stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he killed the duck. She knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, "Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you. But I was just wondering how long would you let Sally make a slave of you. 

You see God knows what is in the heart of man and that we are slaves to sin because He’s been standing at the window. He knows everything about us. He knew that Nicodemus was indeed a slave to sin and that’s why He told him, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

No Such Thing As The Middle

Last Sunday I had the privilege of bringing the message at the Rustburg Baptist Church here in Rustburg, Virginia. It was for their 116th anniversary. It was also the 25th anniversary of their pastor, Rick Cole. Again, I was honored. My text was from John 3:1-16.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear in Hebrews 9:27 that it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this, the judgment. It also says in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And in Romans 6:23a that the wages of sin is death. But it also goes on to offer hope at the end of Romans 6:23b by letting us know that in spite of that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And in Romans 5:8 that God commnendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. And in Romans 10:13 that whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved. And finally in vv.9-10 of the same chapter, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

There is a scarlet thread of redemption that runs it way through every book of our Bibles that culminates in our Lord Jesus Christ. The church, this church, is a part of that plan.

Sometimes I believe in our world of tolerance, we’ve forgotten what happens to those who have not been born again. There is no such thing as the “middle” when it comes to salvation. The Bible states that either God is your father or Satan is your father. Either you are in a relationship with Christ, or you’re not; either you are born again, or you’re not. You are either God’s child, or you are God’s enemy; you are either storing up wrath, or you are storing up mercy; you are either heaven-bound, or you are hell-bound. No one is in the middle. No one is “almost there.” (Fay, p.7)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

You Are Invited

I will be teaching at the Rustburg Baptist Church in Rustburg, VA this Sunday morning in the 11:00 a.m. service. Come out to support me and meet a great group of people!