Lucia's Blog: THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF HELL
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, March 16, 2017

THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF HELL


"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  
Matthew 10:28


Abraham lied to King Abimelech. He said that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife. The king took Sarah into his home intending to make her his wife, but God struck him and his house of sickness and closed the wombs of all of the women. In a dream, God revealed the truth to the king, so he asked Abraham why he had done such a thing. Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife." Godliness in the Bible is literally the fear of God and the devotion that grows out of that fear. The proverb says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." (Proverbs 1:7).  "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God," (Hebrews 10:31). Jesus teaches us the fear of God by describing a place of everlasting punishment that is called hell. The fear of God is clean, (Psalm 19:9). There is nothing evil about fearing God, so let's talk about hell.

There are few doctrines in the Bible that are more hated, ignored, feared or are so unpopular and which make people more uncomfortable, than the doctrine of eternal punishment (hell).  For many, the thought of eternal punishment (hell) and burning in hell for eternity is extremely repugnant to the human mind.  Most people shy away from the concept of hell.  Many pulpits ignore or refuse to preach about eternal punishment, letting brethren live in disobedience to Christ without the fear of eternal consequences.  They would rather talk about heaven than the certainty of judgment. They seem to forget that for justice and righteousness to exist, there must be a Final Day of Judgment.  God has declared in His Word that,  “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  (Hebrews 9:27).  This world of darkness is filled with lots of lawlessness and wicked men that get away with every form of crime.  Often, we Christians get discouraged because apparently the wicked always wins and prospers, (Psalm 73, Mal. 3:14-15).  Indeed, our world is lawless and imperfect, and the wicked usually are not punished for their crimes or lawlessness.  The righteous seem to suffer most.  Take, for example, our Lord Jesus who suffered severely and was crucified at the hands of wicked men; the persecution of the early church (many faithful Christians died at the hands of evil men for righteousness), etc.  For justice to prevail, there must be a Final Day of Judgment!  

Our Lord Jesus Christ has declared that He will sit on His throne of glory and separate the righteous from the wicked.  He will do this as the shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  Both will be judged according to their works (righteous and evil works).  Then the dreadful sentence will be executed accordingly.  The anguish and torment of the wicked in hell will be eternal!  Indeed, the nature of this doctrine is terrifying to the human mind.  But, despite the concept of everlasting torment, many find it revolting, ignoring that such a doctrine came from the lips of Jesus our Lord.  Jesus spoke more of hell and its horrors and dreadfulness more than the prophets and apostles ever did.  He continually warned and still is warning men of the devastating dangers of going to hell.  To ignore and disregard the clear teachings of Jesus (His doctrines) is to deny Christ Himself! 


I.   THE BIBLICAL LANGUAGE OF HELL:

Before I discuss the nature of hell, it is crucial that we understand the original language used in the Scriptures to describe the afterlife, either the intermediate state or the final state.  
  • Sheol (Hebrew):
“Sheol” is the Hebrew word in the Old Testament which is translated “hell.”  The primary meaning of this word is “the present state of death,” or “the grave.”  This term refers to the destiny of both the righteous (Ps. 16:10; 30:3; Isa. 38:10; etc.) and the wicked (Num. 16:33; Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17).  The word “Sheol” occurs 65 times in the Old Testament.  Brown, Driver, and Briggs define the term to mean “the underworld... whither men descend at death,” (Ps. 16:10; 18:4-5).  They add that the conditions of the righteous and the wicked are sometimes distinguished in Sheol.  Sheol, for the wicked, (Ps. 9:17; 55:15) is a place of:
  1. Sorrows, (2 Samuel 22:6).
  2. Destruction (Prov. 15:11; 27:20).
  3. The opposite of life, (Prov. 9:18).
  4. The pit, (Isa. 14:15).
  5. Depths, (Prov. 9:18).  
For the righteous, Sheol is said to be a place where,
  1. He shall not be abandoned, (Ps. 16:10).
  2. God shall redeem the soul from the power of Sheol, (Ps. 49:15).  
In the King James Version, “Sheol” is translated as “hell” and is found 31 times; “grave” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times.  Sheol can refer to the abode of the wicked, the grave or death, (Isa. 38:10; Hos. 13:14).  It is also the belly of the fish in Jonah 2:2, or a deep pit in Numbers 16:30, 33.
  • Hades (Greek):
In the King James Version, “Hades” is translated “hell.”  The word occurs ten times in the New Testament.  Hades is the New Testament Greek translation of the word Sheol.  It is the common receptacle of disembodied spirits (Thayer 11) (Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31).  The account of Lazarus and the rich man demonstrates that the “realm of the dead” has two divisions:  Abraham's bosom (or Paradise, Luke 23:43) and torment.  It is crucial that we understand that the dwellings of the righteous and the wicked are distinguished in Hades.  The New Testament never uses Hades (the abode for the wicked) in connection with the final state of punishment.  Hades is translated “hell” ten times in the New Testament, and it is translated “grave” once, (1 Cor. 15:55).  
  • Tartaros (Greek):
This term occurs only once in the New Testament, (2 Peter 2:4).  It is “the name of a subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they will suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews”  (Thayer, 615). It is translated as “hell” in the NIV.  According to Strong's, tartaros means “to incarcerate in eternal torment.”  
  • The Valley of Hinnom (a deep, narrow ravine south of Jerusalem):
The Israelites used this valley to worship Molech and Baal, (2 King 16:3; 2 Chr. 28:3).  The Molech idol was a large hollow metallic statue that had the head of a calf, wearing a crown, and whose arms extended as to embrace.  The pagan parents would build a fire in the opened back of this giant idol.   A pit beneath the idol was filled with fire also.  Once the metal structure was extremely hot, the parents would place their small children on this figure's extended arms.  They would watch as their screaming children fell into the burning pit.  The children's screaming was so loud and agonizing that the people would play musical instruments and mourn intensely, to silence the agonizing cries of the children, (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31-34).  It reminds us of a modern day abortionist, that was moved to give up the practice when he watched what happened when the baby inside the mother's womb was injected with the saline solution. As he watched, the needle jerked, twisted and turned with the baby's agony.  In our times we have reproduced this barbaric and inhuman cruelty!!!

Later, when the Israelites returned from captivity, they began to throw all the dead carcasses and trash from the city into this valley, (2 Kings 23:4-10).
  • Gehenna:
Gehenna is a transliteration of the Old Testament Hebrew expression,  “the valley of Hinnom,” which denoted a ravine on the south and east of Jerusalem.   As I mentioned earlier, this valley was used by apostate Israelites as a place where their children were offered to the fiery arms of the pagan god Molech, (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6).  It was indeed a place of suffering and weeping!!  When King Josiah began his reformation, he commanded the high priest, the priests, and the keepers of the threshold to destroy all the vessels that were made to be offered to Baal and Asherah, to burn them to ashes. He had made a covenant before Jehovah, to walk after Jehovah, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and all his soul, and to confirm the words of this covenant that were written in this book.  All the people endorsed the covenant.  Josiah regarded the valley of Hinnom as a place of heinous abomination, (2 Kings 23:10-14).  
“35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”  (Jeremiah 32:35). 
The valley of Hinnom eventually became a garbage depository for Jerusalem where there was a constant burning of refuse.  Gehenna served as a symbolic designation for that place of suffering to which the wicked will be assigned following the Lord's return, the second coming.  Let us consider some Scriptures in the New Testament where Gehenna is mentioned.  

Jesus spoke of “gehenna” several times in His “Sermon on the Mount.”  For instance, He warned that anyone who calls another “you fool!” shall be in danger of the “hell of fire,” (Mat. 5:22).  It does not imply that it is prohibited to use the word “fool” or its derivatives, (cf. Psa. 14:1; 1 Cor. 15:36; Gal. 3:1).  Rather, Jesus condemns the attitude of one who would despise another by suggesting that he was morally or mentally incompetent such as the words that men use when they explode with anger and use pejorative barbs for the sake of venting one's personal rage.

Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount,
“21 Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.”  (Matt. 5:21-22).
Gehenna is a symbol of judgment, where every word will be subject to scrutiny (close examination). Gehenna indicates the destiny of those, who, having had opportunities to enter and be qualified in the kingdom of Christ, are considered unworthy and unprofitable, (Luke 21:36).  Jesus employed several examples of hyperbole (for emphasis), to stress the need for proceeding through life, even with great loss, (e.g., deprived of an eye or limb), rather than having to go to Gehenna as a final destination, (Mat. 5:29-30; 18:9; Mk. 9:43-47).

According to the prophet Jeremiah, Gehenna was referred to as “the valley of the dead bodies.”  (Jer. 31:40).  What do you suppose this means?  Do you think there will be hope and a promise to those who are rejected and cast into Gehenna?

In Jesus’ blistering rebuke of the Jewish leaders, who were on the brink of crucifying their own Messiah, He charged them saying,
“15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves.”  (Matt. 23:15).
When Jesus said "a son of hell,” remember that the word for "hell" makes this “a child of Gehenna.”  This suggests the location of Gehenna just outside the walls of Jerusalem, the holy city, where Christ our Lord reigns as king of Kings and Lord of lords.  To be cast into Gehenna is a figure of speech to mean being rejected from God's heavenly kingdom.  This figure could have been applied to the Jews of Jesus' time as they had the opportunity to follow Jesus, believe His Gospel and be partakers in God's kingdom.  Some of them eventually became Christians (members of the New Testament church).

Gehenna is the New Testament term that usually refers to the future of the unsaved, the place of everlasting punishment.  Gehenna is the final and eternal abode for those who die apart from God, the disobedient and rebellious.  The word is found twelve times in the Greek New Testament.  Jesus Himself employed this term eleven times.  Every time in the New Testament, when Jesus used the word “Gehenna,” the KJV has “hell,” which I believe is a misleading translation.  Why?  Because it is also used to translate the Greek word for "Hades."  

Those who believe, obey and remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ, seek a place in Christ's heavenly kingdom, represented by the heavenly Mt. Zion or the heavenly Jerusalem.  Jesus is earnestly inviting everyone to seek His kingdom and His righteousness to avoid Gehenna, (Matt. 6:33).  The benefits of His kingdom are available to all men now.  In former ages, the great truths of the Gospel were not offered and known.  Jesus said,
“41 The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.”  (Matt. 12:41).
II.  THE NECESSITY OF HELL:
  • The Nature and Fall of Man:
Man was created in God's image after the likeness of God, (Genesis 1:26).  God gave man free will to choose good or evil.  God did not program men to rebel against Him, but rather men have chosen to willfully reject Him and Heaven's plan for living on earth, (Matt. 23:37; John 5:40).  Take note, that man was made upright and not evil but has mostly sought to do evil, (Ecclesiastes 7:29). 
  • Sin and the Nature of God:
The Word of God clearly teaches that God is holy, (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).  That is, He is utterly separate from evil and sin.  His holiness is demonstrated throughout the Bible (at Sinai, [Exo. 19:12-25]; the Tabernacle arrangement, with its holy and most holy place, the abode of God, [Exo. 25:22]).  His holy nature was indeed demonstrated to instruct the Israelites about Jehovah's holy nature, (Exo. 26:33).  

God's holiness not only suggests that He cannot commit sin, (James 1:13), but it also implies that He cannot fellowship with sin and ignore rebellion.  “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”  (Hab. 1:13).  God does not take pleasure in wickedness or lawlessness, (Psalm 5:4).  Those who indulge in evil will be recipients of His vengeance.  The Bible declares that the wicked and disobedient in heart are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed, (Romans 2:5). 
  • God Promises Righteous Vengeance:
Our Gracious God, promises righteous vengeance and just repayment for sin,  (2 Thes. 1:6; Heb. 10:30).  Evil and all lawlessness call for the just wrath of a Holy and Just God.  Evil cannot go unpunished!  God is upright and all of His judgments are righteous, (Psalm 92:15).  If there is no hell, then there would be no final victory over evil.  All evil must be utterly defeated or there can be no heaven.  Heaven is the complete absence of sin and lawlessness in the presence of a Holy God.  Without eternal punishment, evil would be allowed and condoned.  
  • Sin Separates Man From God:
When man willfully chooses to sin, he is immediately separated from his Holy Creator.  Isaiah said, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you  so that he does not hear.”  (Isa. 59:2).  In Biblical terms, “death” frequently means a separation.  “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”  (James 2:26).  Thus, when a person enters a state of disobedience and sinfulness, he is dead in his transpasses, spiritually dead, (Eph. 2:1).  In doing this, he separates himself from God. Remember, God did not initiate or forced us, but it is our choice and responsibility for sinning.

In Ezekiel 18:20-27 God declared, 
The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him... 25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel: Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? 26 When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth therein; in his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. 27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right? '”
According to Ezekiel 18, God blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient.  Do you suppose it is fair and just for God to bless only the obedient and ignore the disobedient?  In Ezekiel 18:25 we read that the ways of the wicked are not just, but crooked.  Why?  Because instead of accepting responsibility for his wickedness, he chooses to blame others and avoid at all cost the punishment that he deserves because of his iniquities.  God has also declared that if the righteous person turns away from righteousness and commits iniquity or sin, he shall die, (v. 26).  And if the wicked turns away from his wickedness, “he shall save his soul alive.” (v. 27) “He shall surely live, he shall not die.” (v. 28).  After declaring this, He asks the house of Israel, “Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right?" (v. 29).  The answer is crystal clear.  Their ways were wicked and crooked.  God does not show partiality, (Acts 10:34).  It is all up to man to choose whether to obey God and go to heaven or disobey Him and lose his soul eternally in hell.  The righteous, the obedient will be saved, and the wicked and disobedient will be punished.  However, if the obedient lives and does not die because of his righteousness and obedience, it would be absurd to let the wicked and disobedient enjoy and partake of the same blessing.  If God allows the wicked and disobedient to live, then, where is the righteousness (justice) of God?  Indeed, God is righteous and just in that He blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient.

Hence, the existence of a place of punishment is not illogical or unreasonable, but rather it is in perfect harmony with the righteousness and justice of God, (2 Thes. 1:6-10).  So it is just and righteous for God to repay with affliction, tribulation, and it is also just for God to bless His righteous and obedient ones.

III.  WHAT IS HELL LIKE

None of us know much about hell (since no one has been there and has come back) except what is revealed in the Bible to us.  We are aware of this dreadful place only through the revealed Word of God and what Jesus taught us about hell.  Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person (James is the only other writer who wrote of Gehenna in the NT, James 3:6).

The description of hell in Mk. 9:43-47 is very specific: 
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.”
The Old Testament allusion (indirect reference) to hell helps us have a clear understanding of what hell is like:
  1. The punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah was a foretaste of hell, (Gen. 19:24; Jude 7).
  2. A place where the wicked are cast down to destruction and are consumed with terror, (Psalm 73:18-19).
  3. Sinners in Zion will receive everlasting burnings, (Isaiah 33:14).
  4. The Day of the Lord's vengeance where He will bring everlasting burning, (Isaiah 57:21).
  5. A place where there will be no peace for the wicked, (Isa. 57:21).
  6. A place where the wicked will go where their worm never dies and their fire is never quenched, (Isa. 66:24).
  7. Where the wicked will awake to everlasting contempt (despised and rejected, Daniel 12:1-2, 10).
In the New Testament Jesus described hell as:
  1. Hell fire, fiery hell and hell of fire, (Matt. 5:22).
  2. Jesus warned us that it would be better to lose one's hand, his foot, or his eye in this life than to go to hell, (Matt. 5:29-30; 18:9).
  3. A place where God can destroy both body and soul, (Matt. 10:28).
  4. A furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, (Matt. 13:41-42).
  5. A place of damnation, eternal punishment, (Matt. 23:33).
  6. A place of outer darkness where the weeping and gnashing of teeth never ends, (Matt. 25:30).
  7. A horrible place of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, (Matt. 25:41).
  8. A dreadful place of eternal punishment, (Matt. 25:46).
  9. A place where the fire never is quenched and the worm never dies, (Mark 9:43-48).
Many other passages speak of hell's damnation and punishment without using the term “gehenna.” Consider them as they describe everlasting torment:

  1. Matthew 8:10-12 as outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  2. Matthew 8:29 where the evil spirits acknowledge there is a time for torment.
  3. Luke 13:3 for the disobedient, rebellious and who do not repent and eventually will perish.
  4. Luke 13:22-30 where the workers of iniquity will be forced to “depart” from God's presence.
  5. Luke 16:19-31 to teach the story of the rich man and Lazarus and the everlasting torment of the rich man.
  6. John 3:16, 36 where all unbelievers will be condemned.
  7. John 5:28-29 where some will be raised to receive damnation.
  8. Romans 2:5, 8-9 of the Lord's wrath that would bring tribulation and anguish.
  9. Romans 2:12 where all sinners will perish.
  10. Romans 5:9 God's wrath.
  11. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9,  God's vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His might.  Heaven is described as fellowship with God while torment is the expulsion or removal from His presence.
  12. Hebrews 10:28-31, a punishment worse than death without mercy.  It will be the vengeance of the living God.
  13. 2 Peter 2:17, an eternal mist of darkness.
  14. Jude 7, 13, vengeance of eternal fire and the blackness of darkness.
  15. Revelation 14:10-11, a place of torment of fire and brimstone where there is no rest, night and day forever.
  16. Revelation 21:8, the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
As I jut mentioned, hell is repeatedly described as a place of “fire,” and suffering, condemnation, and destruction, (Matt 5:22; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; Mk. 9:44-47; Jas. 3:6).  Moreover, hell is described as a “lake which burns with fire and brimstone,” (Rev. 21:8); a place of “outer darkness” and agony, (Matt. 22:13; 25:30) such as will cause “wailing and gnashing of teeth,” (Matt. 13:41-42, 49-50).  A place of torment and utter separation from God, (Lk. 16:24, 28; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).  Indeed, it is a dreadful, horrible place and one must avoid going there at all cost!!!

Men belittle “hell fire and brimstone” preaching and teaching because they don’t believe that the Bible is the Truth.  Therefore, they cannot be frightened by the Bible’s warning.  They will scoff at the Bible doctrine of hell and belittle it.  Even our brethren scoff at the power of the fear of hell to motivate obedience to the Gospel.  They seem to overlook what Paul said, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.”  (2 Cor. 5:11).  Those who scare children away from fire, electric sockets, poisonous drinks or pills, snakes, toys and anything that threatens them, are saving the lives of their children by fear.  So, why should one be ashamed to scare people with the dangers of hell or everlasting punishment?  The truth is that we do not scare people into heaven but we do persuade others with the fear of the Lord to return to Christ as a way of escape from this place of everlasting torment (hell).
“Wickedness is atoned for by loyalty and faithfulness, and one turns from evil by the fear of the LORD.”  (Proverbs 16:6).  
It is crucial for the sinner to acknowledge their lost condition outside of Christ and accept that being lost means going to hell eternally where suffering and agony never ends.  The horrible thought of going to hell ought to alarm us and cause panic!!
“He also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”  (Revelation 14:10).  
There will be no remedy to stop the pain and agony for eternity!!  Therefore, we must try to rescue the lost from the broad road that leads to this terrible perdition, hell. 

Sadly, most people do not fear hell, eternal punishment, because they refuse to believe in God and His Word.  They are blind, refusing to see and acknowledge that in hell they will be in torment and anguish in flame.  There is no more horrible suffering than this which will have no end whatsoever!  
  • Hell:  The Great & Ultimate Separation:
After death, judgment follows.  There will be no second chance for salvation, (Heb. 9:27).  There is a great contrast between those who die in the Lord, the saved (the obedient and righteous), and those who die lost, without obeying the Gospel of Christ.  “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”  (Luke 16:26).  There is no opportunity for obedience after death!!!
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt. 25:31-34, 41, 46).  
The Bible describes the penalty of hell as “the second death,” (Rev. 20:14) which conveys the ultimate separation from God.  In the New Testament, this is stressed in several passages.  In Matthew 25:1-13, in the parable of the virgins, there were “ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”  They were expected to be prepared and ready to go out to meet the bridegroom when His approach was announced.  Those virgins represent those in God's kingdom who are pure and should be “pure,” (1 John 3:3).  The “lamps” were small earthenware vessels with flaxen wicks.  They represent the Christians' faithfulness, (Matt. 5:16).  The ten virgins in this parable represent Christians.  Jesus' message in this parable is the necessity of preparedness.  

According to verse two of this parable, there were wise and foolish Christians in God's kingdom (2 Cor. 13:5).  The foolish virgins brought their lamps without extra oil.  They were foolish because they should have brought extra oil for their lamps in a separate vessel.  They did not know the time when the groom would come.  Though all the virgins made some preparation, in fact, these foolish virgins did not prepare enough.  You see, the wise virgins brought extra oil in a separate vessel and were prepared for a delay.  In this parable, the extra oil represents the active, living faith of Christians, (Eph. 2:10; James 2:14ff).  It is their perseverance and active living faith!  Those who strive to make their election sure are the wise ones, (2 Pet. 1:10).  

“But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.”  The problem here was not that these virgins drifted off to sleep while waiting for the groom, but that they were not prepared to go out and meet Him as soon as His coming was proclaimed.  The coming of the groom represents the second coming of Jesus our Lord, (Heb. 9:28).  “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”  (1 Thess. 4:16).  The “cry” represents the cry of command mentioned here.

The difference in these two group of virgins is evident in Matthew 25:8:  “And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.”  Though the foolish virgins made their request, the answer was “no.”  That is exactly what will happen on Judgment Day.  No one will be able to share their preparation or their faithfulness (i.e., their “oil”) with others, their neighbors, no matter how desperately and eagerly they may want to do so.  Each one of us will be judged according to the record of our own lives, works, (2 Cor. 5:10).  We will not be able to transfer our “righteousness” to another, (Ez. 18:20).  And though it is true that we ought to share with those in need, there are some things that cannot be shared (reputation, character, dedication, obedience, faithfulness, righteousness, godliness, holiness).

In the coming of the groom, the second coming of Christ, only those who had adequately prepared will be able to go to the wedding feast.  Then, the door will be shut!!  These words imply finality. The door is shut for those who rejected the opportunity to prepare correctly to meet God in judgment, (death, coma, sudden death, brain injury, and such).  “For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.'”  (2 Cor. 6:2).  Once the doors (opportunities to obey and be right with God) are shut for the wedding feast, they will not be opened again!!  What a tragedy to be shut off from such joy and participation!!

Though the lost might desperately plead, his anguish will not sway (affect) the divine justice of God at His time of judgment, (Matt. 7:21-23).  “I do not know you.”  Since the foolish virgins did not care enough about the wedding and did not make adequate preparation, the groom refused to recognize them as His kin or friends.  It is vital to make proper preparation before the Lord returns or before our death.  It is impossible to prepare after our resurrection for there will be no open door or opportunity.   In Matthew 7:23, Jesus said, “I never knew you” to Christians whose faith did not remain active and living.  A Christian can and will fall from grace if he allows his faith (his faithfulness) to die!  Even if one appears to be faithful as the foolish virgins did by not abandoning their post, that does not mean that his heart is right with God.  God will not count us as one of His acquaintances and part of His household is He finds us unprepared on the Day of Judgment.  We must be faithful servants of God always!!

Therefore, unprofitable servants will be “cast out” and will hear the final verdict from the Lord, “Depart from me.”  (Matt. 25:41).  Those who willfully reject and disobey the Gospel of Christ “shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might.”  (2 Thess. 1:9).  

Final judgment will take place to manifest the glory of God to all mankind by demonstrating His righteousness and mercy, (2 Thess. 1:3-10).  It will be an entirely fair judgment, (Rom. 2:11, Ps. 98:9).  Mankind will not have a second chance after death, (Luke 16:24-26).  The book of Hebrews connects death with the devastating consequences of judgment.  “27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  (Heb. 9:27).  Therefore, in light of the final judgment Christians should be able to forgive each other freely for we know that all record of wrongs will be settled on that dreadful day of judgment and will be made right.  God will avenge us and will repay, (Rom. 12:19).  God's delay return is because He is longsuffering, patient, not wanting that anyone should perish but that everyone comes to repentance, (2 Peter 3:9).   The Lord is patiently and kindly inviting all sinners to repent.  Therefore, it is our duty as Christians to bring the message of salvation (evangelizing) and so help all men not to perish in hell eternally, (Rom. 10:14-15).


IV.   HOW LONG WILL THE PUNISHMENT LAST?

The main objection usually made against the doctrine of hell is its everlasting, eternal nature.   The concept of eternal punishment has faced considerable resistance even though it is clearly stated in the Bible.  Many refuse to accept and believe that the wicked will be punished eternally after death. The skeptics reject the idea completely.  Others believe that it is unjust.  Indeed, Jesus will punish the wicked and reward the righteous, (Romans 2:5-11; Matt. 25:41,46).  The wicked, the disobedient will go to eternal destruction, the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  The righteous, the obedient will receive eternal life.  Only the redeemed, saved ones will live forever with Jesus.  

The Scriptures explicitly affirm the abiding nature of divine retribution.  The everlasting shame and punishment of the wicked, (Matt. 25:46).  The term “everlasting” literally implies “always being.” It is contrasted with that which is “temporal” as found in 2 Cor. 4:18.  Some make the argument that “everlasting” does not mean “truly unending in nature.”  We know the truth about Jesus’ usage of this word, not from the word itself, but through the words of the Judge, as expressed in the Word of God.  In Matthew 25:46, the term “eternal punishment” is contrasted with the “eternal life” (i.e., everlasting communion with God).  Both sentences are unending in duration.  Moreover, in Mark 9:48, Jesus stressed that in hell, the fire is never quenched (the agony never ceases).  Furthermore, in Revelation 14:11, John describes a third angel who announces in a loud voice that the wicked are going to perish with the lawlessness of this world.  Those who choose to serve and obey the prince of darkness, i.e., Satan must expect to suffer the everlasting consequences, eternal punishment.  One cannot sin and get away with it.  That simple!  The wrath of God will fall on those whose master is the devil.  And though the wrath of God here on earth is still mixed with His grace, (Matt. 5:45), in hell, the wrath will be unmixed.  It will be eternal torment with fire and brimstone.  It will be a horrible judgment that will never end, according to the vivid language of Rev. 14:11.  The fact that this never-ending punishment awaits the wicked and disobedient should encourage all men (believers and non-believers) to obey God and do His will.  Consider some arguments that some make concerning the duration of the punishment.

  • Religious Materialism:
One facet of “materialism” is the theory that man is entirely mortal and does not possess a “soul” or “spirit” that will endure eternity.  The materialist believes that there is no eternal punishment for the wicked (those who reject God).  They profess to revere the Bible, but repudiate the premise that there is a part of man that survives death, and thus may be subject to punishment forever.  However, Jesus declared, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matt. 10:28).  The word “destroy” does not mean “annihilation.”  “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of dwelling.”  (Vine, 212).  Thus, one must conclude that the soul is immortal.

Take, for instance, the Jehovah's Witness’ claim that the concept of everlasting punishment is an “unreasonable doctrine” that “contradicts the Bible” (Make Sure of All Things, 1953, 154-55).  To these misguided teachers, “hell” is merely “a place of rest in hope”  (Ibid., 68).  Do you not find it strange that Jesus would speak of the “danger” of hell in Matthew 5:22 if this condition or state were merely “a place of rest in hope”?

The Jehovah's Witnesses allege that “destroy” means “annihilation,” and that when man dies, he is annihilated, that is, he ceases to exist.  But the word “apolluni” in the Greek means to destroy, ruin, loss and not “annihilate,” (Matt. 10:6; Lk. 15:4, “lost” sheep, not annihilated.  In 2 Peter 3:6 we read that the “world of that time perished when it was flooded.”  Now, the word “perish” in this verse does not mean annihilated or that it ceased to exist, but rather than it was “ruined” while it was flooded (it was no longer a habitation for man).  In like manner, the word means the ruin of the soul which will be rejected by God to never be in His presence, (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  Thayer's lexicon states that “apolluni” means the loss of well-being; not the loss of being.

 The New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses translates Matthew 25:46 as “And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.” “The word kolazo is a term from horticulture. It refers to the pruning and trimming of the branches of a plant so it can flourish. An aion of kolazo, then, the phrase can mean ‘a period of pruning’ or ‘a time of trimming.’ Or an intense experience of correction.”' (91).  First, let me clarify a minor detail. The word in question is not kolzao. More precisely, it is kolasin. The former is a verb and the latter is a noun: καὶ ἀπελεύσονται οὗτοι εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον, οἱ δὲ δίκαιοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. The word is found only twice in the New Testament: 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Also, Hebrews 10:29, “How much worse punishment (kolazo)...”  In the Septuagint, the word occurs 15 times and in every case the New English Translation of the Septuagint translates it as "punishment." 

The Jehovah's Witnesses argue that “punishment” and the “destruction” mentioned in these verses is physical death.  But Matthew 10:28 disproves such an error.  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Greek Gehenna).”  In this Scripture, we see something worse and more frightening, something that's after death.  “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell (Greek Gehenna).  Yes, I tell you, fear him!”  (Luke 12:5).

Therefore, if the word “gehenna” means the destruction of the physical body, why is it worse than death?  Why then fear God?  What is it that He can do that man cannot do?  

In Hebrews 10:29, if the Israelites were stoned to death for breaking the Law of Moses, why is it that Hebrews says, that there will be worse punishment for 'the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace if is only the punishment of physical death?”'

The Jehovah's Witnesses claim that the word “eternal” means physical death and that such is irrevocable (thus eternal); that is, there is no resurrection for the one who dies.  But what they don't acknowledge is that the same word (aionion) is used to speak of eternal life as well as to eternal punishment.  

In Matthew 5:7; Matt. 8:6; Luke 8:28; 2 Peter 2:8, the word torment, “basnizo” is translated “afflict.”  In Rev. 20:10 the same word is used.  “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”  Remember what Jesus said in Matt. 25:41, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand,  Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Besides, the Seventh-Day Adventists argue that the concept of eternal punishment in hell is not Biblical.  Rather, that the wicked simply will be annihilated after an appropriate punishment (Seventh-Day Adventists Believe... 1988, 369-72).
  • Materialism Closer to Home:
In recent history, many of our own brethren have shown that we are not out of danger from this error. Dr. John Thomas (a physician from England in 1844) established a group that eventually came to be known as the Christadelphians.  One of the major doctrines was the belief that unbelievers will remain eternally dead.  In the winter of 1846, Jesse B. Ferguson began working with a church in Nashville, TN.  H. Leo Boles described Ferguson as a “meteor that flashed across the horizon... leaving nothing but darkness in its wake.”  (1932).  One of Ferguson’s errors was that there is no punishment for evil men after death.  His influence indeed devastated many churches in the Nashville area.

In 1982, Edward Fudge, who at that time was an elder for the Berign Drive church of Christ in Houston, published his book, “The Fire that Consumes.”  In this volume, Fudge denies what he calls the “traditionalist view” of eternal punishment.  He boldly declared that the unrighteous would be raised to judgment, punished briefly and then eradicated or banished to “total, everlasting extinction.”  Though Fudge's position has been utterly discredited by writers both in and out of the church (Workman 1984, Morey 1984,) there are many who nevertheless have been enticed by it.  

Pepperdine University invited Fudge to present his “conditionalist” doctrine at the 1991 spring lectureship.  John Clayton, a well-known speaker among churches of Christ, gave Fudge's book a forceful recommendation while confessing:
“I have never been able to be comfortable with the position that a person who rejected God should suffer forever and ever and ever.”  (1990, 20).  
Others have entertained and played with this ideology.  Take, for instance, F. LaGard Smith who was invited to a lectureship at Pepperdine University in 1988.  He argued that God “will destroy (the soul).  Not punish it.  Not dangle it.  Not torture it.  Destroy it.”  

  • Biblical Evidence for Eternal Punishment:
The Biblical doctrine of Eternal Punishment is crystal clear.  Human emotionalism obscures this concept for many.  Some claim that the idea of man possessing a “soul” or spirit that can survive the body in a conscious state is merely a relic of paganism.  That is not true!!  Why?  Consider the following:

If human beings were entirely mortal as some claim, why did Jesus say, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (gehenna)?  Though someone might try to terminate one's bodily existence, he can still not destroy his soul.  Jesus told the Sadducees in one of His discussions with them that in the resurrection men do not “die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”  (Luke 20:36).  It is obvious that there is something about man that lives forever!!

When Peter exhorted Christian women to exercise godliness, he was speaking of the need for them to clothe themselves with the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, (1 Peter 3:4). This would hardly be appropriate if the human spirit were corruptible itself.  It is impossible for a corruptible spirit to be clothed with incorruptible apparel.  There is a clear implication that the spirit has an abiding nature.

In Revelation 6, the apostle John saw a vision of the martyrs underneath the altar of God.  John affirms that he saw “the souls of them that had been slain,” (verse 9).  The word “soul” here cannot be a figure of speech since John saw the souls of them that were slain and such souls were under the altar of God, and their dead bodies were still on earth.  The resurrection had not yet occurred. Moreover, these souls were still conscious since it is evident that they spoke (crying out to the Lord); wondered (“how long, O God?”); remembered (the fellow saints that were still on earth); reasoned (concluding that the punishment of the wicked is just); and were given a preliminary reward (white robes) in anticipation of the final victory (verses 10-11).

The apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 affirms that those who “know not God” and those who “obey not the gospel,” will “suffer “punishment” even eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.  The word “destruction” in no way implies “annihilation.”  Rather, it is “the loss of a life of blessedness after death, future misery.”  (Thayer 1958, 443).

The book of Revelation describes the anguished fate of the wicked and rebellious who will experience the “wrath of God.”  They will be tormented forever and ever!!  (Rev. 14:10-11).

Finally, the nature of the resurrected body demands that punishment for the wicked be everlasting.  In 1 Cor. 15:52 Paul declared that the dead are raised “incorruptible,” (1 Tim. 1:17, where it is used of God).  We are likewise told that the unjust will be raised, (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).  Our Lord also acknowledged the punishment of both soul and body in hell, (Matt. 10:28).  All of these factors lead to only one conclusion, that indeed there will be punishment after death and it must be eternal in its duration!  Now, if there is another plan of salvation in that state, I want to know where in the Bible can I find that?  The answer will be a big NOWHERE.  The Bible teaches just the opposite!

After death, judgment follows, and not a second chance for salvation, (Heb. 9:27).  “There is a great gulf fixed” (the perfect tense form in the Greek Testament stresses the abiding nature of this separation), and to pass from one realm to the other, it is impossible, (Luke 16:26).  Likewise, the rich man when he found himself in that place of torment acknowledged, that his brothers that were still alive on earth needed to make enough preparation to avoid going to that place of torment.  He knew there was no so-called death plan of redemption, (Luke 16:28-31).  There is no opportunity for obedience after death!!

Therefore, the Lord has already spoken to us about hell and its duration.  A place where the wicked will be tormented day and night forever and ever, (Rev. 20:10).  A place of everlasting fire, (Matt. 18:8; 25:46; 24:41; Jude 7).  The smoke of their torment ascends up forever, (Rev. 14:10-11).  God's wrath abides on the wicked forever and ever, (John 3:36).  A place where the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched, (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).  Everlasting destruction from God's presence (2 Thess. 1:6-9).  Blackness forever, (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12-13).  Hell is eternal punishment where there is no way of escape.

IV.  WHO ARE THE OCCUPANTS OF HELL?

The Bible tells us that the devil and his angels will go to Gehenna, (Matt. 25:41).  They are held in chains of darkness because of their sins, (2 Peter 2:4).  False religious teachers, (Matt. 7:13-14).  Those who do not obey the Lord, (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  The ungodly, the worldly, the unholy and immoral, (Rev. 21:8; 22:5; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).  Lukewarm Christians, (Rev. 3:15-16). The unmerciful, selfish, unkind, unsympathizing, and uncompassionate, (Matt. 25:31-46). Finally, those whose names are not written in the book of life, (Rev. 20:15).

V.   GOD'S GOODNESS AND THE CROSS:

To thoroughly understand the concept of hell, one must understand God's scheme of redemption, the redemptive work of Jesus, (Romans 3:21-26) Christ and the necessity of judgment. The apostle Paul affirmed that God, the Father, has manifested His righteousness in sending His Son, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”   “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”  (Hebrews 5:8-9).  The holiness and justice of Deity demand that sin be addressed.  The fact that there is a deserved reward for good and evil is an evidence that “there is a God that judges in the earth.”  (Psalm 58:10-11).  The question at stake is:  How can a just and righteous God keep rebellious men from going to hell?

Without a Redeemer, all mankind would have been condemned to hell.  But God in His undeserved grace to us revealed a scheme of redemption and reconciliation, (Gen. 3:15) by sending a blessed Redeemer, His Son, Jesus Christ.  We can escape the eternal punishment of hell by obeying God, (Matthew 7:21-27; 25:32-46) and have our sins removed through His plan of salvation, thus becoming justified, sanctified and righteous to enter Heaven.  It is the only way to escape the punishment for sin. God in His lovingkindness and mercy provides the faith and grace, but one can lose salvation (go to hell) if he rejects both.  

Jesus provided the connection or link between man and God, (Hebrews 4:14-16, I Timothy 2:5-6). He opened the door to a reunion with God, (Hebrews 6:18:20).  Jesus is the way by which mankind can return or come back to the Father, (John 14:6). Jesus provided the means of reconciliation and pardon.  Jesus is our High Priest who offered His own blood in the heavenly holy place, (Hebrews 9:1-14, 23-26). The offering of His blood before God was as vital as His death. When Jesus died, it was not for any sin He had committed.  And though He was tempted in every respect as we are, yet He was without sin, and did not sin, not even once!! (Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Peter 2:22).  God did not put our sins upon Christ, but rather the penalty of our wrong.  If Jesus had died only and had not been raised and completed the sacrifice, we would still be in our sins and be condemned to hell for all eternity, (I Corinthians 15:17, Hebrews 1:3).  Christ's sacrifice offered a single sacrifice for sins.  “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”  (Hebrews 10:10-14). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  (Hebrews 9:22).  Hell is not just eternal separation from God, it is eternal torment.  We are reconciled to God "in Him" and "through Him." But, this reconciliation to the Father has conditions.  God's intent or purpose for mankind's redemption is reconciliation through the blood of Christ, being the mediator, bridge, between man and God.  Yet, one must be in the faith and continue in the faith.
“14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."  (Ephesians 2:14-18).  

Because of sin, man had alienated himself from God because of his wicked works, (Colossians 1:21-23).  "Reconciliation" is the process by which an enemy becomes a friend, resulting in peace. 

II Corinthians 5:18-20 says,
"But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God."
Though all sinners deserve to be lost eternally, the Lord has provided a way to “escape the judgment of hell.”  (Matthew 23:33).  No man can ever argue against the love of God in light of His unspeakable gift at the cross!!

 So, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Satan’s downfall would be hasty and final, (Luke 10:18). Satan and his angels will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire, the second death. Jesus will destroy the works of the devil in Satan's final end in the lake of fire.  And though Jesus destroys the works of the devil, mankind still has to obey the plan of redemption or salvation to avoid going to hell, (Romans 6:16-18, I Corinthians 10:12-13, Romans 6:12-14). 

Sadly, for those who reject the Truth, the Gospel of Christ, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.'”  (Heb. 10:26:31).


CONCLUSION:

The Doctrine of Hell is very controversial today. It is under fire.  It is rarely mentioned in modern times.  It is challenged from all sides.  There are many skeptics (Christians and non-Christians) who repudiate the concept of everlasting punishment.  They dare to ask why would a loving God send people to hell.  They reject Jesus' teaching on hell on the grounds that a just and merciful God could not do such a thing.  They lean toward the arguments of the atheist who claims that if there were a God, He could not be so unjust.   Many denominations, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and Worldwide Church of God, have rejected the doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked.  Even some among the churches of Christ have advocated this erroneous concept.

The Bible is crystal clear about the consequences of our choices here in this life. There is a right way and a wrong way to live, and we must stop to reflect frequently.  We will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell.  This reality is presented in Romans 6:23:  “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This is made clear in the parable of the talents.  “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'”  (Matt. 25:21,23).  That joy is heaven!! “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?'  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”   That place of darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth is hell!  There is no third alternative.  It is either heaven or hell.  The way of heaven “leads to life (heaven),” (Matt. 7:14).  The way of hell “leads to destruction (hell),” (Matt. 7:13).  And each one of us will either spend eternity in heaven or in hell.  For, “we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ,” (Romans 14:10).  The truth is that since God raised Jesus from the grave, He has given us assurance that God will make mankind accountable on that Final Day of Judgment, (Acts 17:31).  So, heaven and hell are real rather than some theorized possibility or folktale.  God wants all men to be with Him in heaven, (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9).  Yet, Jesus has stated that most of mankind will end up in hell, (Matt. 7:13-14).  Take heed!

The Lord Himself taught the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment.  He spoke more about hell than heaven.  It was also acknowledged and endorsed by the early church.  It was later defended by many theologians of the Middle Ages and the Reformation period.  However, after the 20th century, a new wave of “clergymen” within the ranks of “Christendom” began to deny this fundamental tenet of Bible doctrine.  Today a significant part of people no longer believes in hell.  

Furthermore, there is a weakening stance on this concept of hell in the church.  It is about time for those so-called faithful preachers and leaders of the Lord's church to start giving more diligence to the teaching of Truth regarding eternal punishment and stop ignoring the Truth.  The price of hell is too expensive!  Hell will be forever and man does not have to go there.  But they need to faithfully obey God now!  There is a deadline and that is the Day of Judgment, (2 Peter 3:10-12).  We have no idea when that day will arrive.  The eternal home of our soul and the souls of men is at stake!! Therefore, we must endeavor to be watchful and ready for that final deadline.  The Bible plainly teaches that there will be a day of reckoning, and we can be sure of this.  There will be a day when each of us will be audited and called upon to answer for our life, (Rom. 14:11-12; Matt. 25:31-46). On that day, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”  (Eccl. 12:14).  How will you stand in that day?  Are you prepared for the final deadline?

May we never forget that rules are rules and that when we break them our sins will sooner or later find us out!  Our sins may cost us something very serious, eternal life in heaven, (John 8:24; Luke 13:3).  God is holy and righteous and always does the right thing.  He under no circumstances will change the rules for you and me, (John 12:48).  We either submit to God's rules or foolishly let our sins find us out.  In torment, there will be a separation of the righteous from the unrighteous, (Luke 16:26).  There will be a great gulf of separation between the righteous and the wicked.  There are only two ways and two destinies.  “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  (Matt. 7:13-14).  We either do everything God's way or our own foolish ways.  We are either in Christ or not in Christ.  We either are faithful children of God or partake of the wickedness and sins of this world.  We either separate ourselves from all forms of ungodliness and worldliness or mix with the wicked ways of this life.  We either keep ourselves unspotted and separated from the world or we are defiled in God's sight and lose our reward, eternity in heaven with Him.  Let this sink deeply into your hearts!!

Remember, that the rich man being in torment did not want others to go to that place of suffering.  He begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family that they might repent and not have to go to that place of torment.  The rich man could have saved the souls of his brethren and others while he was still alive on earth.  But he didn't!!  He was not even concerned about the souls of his family, much less the souls of others!!  And though it was too late for him to save himself from the punishment of hell, and did not show concern after he was in torment, he still did not want the souls of others to go to hell and suffer eternally.  We, Christians, desperately need to have this concern for the lost today!!!

So, how can we honestly cultivate a personal concern for the lost?  First, we must have a thirsty and hungry interest in our own soul.  Jesus stated over and over the importance of man's soul.  He taught us that even one soul is worth more than all the riches of this world, (Matt. 16:26).  Our interest in our own soul should compel us to be obedient to the laws of Christ.  We must develop faith in Jesus by hearing God's Word, (Rom. 10:17; John 8:24).  We must repent of our sins, (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  We must verbally confess our faith in Jesus, (Rom. 10:9-10) and finally, we must be immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins, (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  It will be impossible to encourage others to obey God if we have not done it ourselves.  Can we?  

When we realize that we were also sinners whose robes were stained by the filth of sin but were washed by the precious and powerful blood of Jesus our Lord, then we will have a concern for the lost.  And then once we get our souls right with God, we must remember that a primary work of the church is to save souls.  It is every Christian's duty to try to save souls, teaching them the Truth and persuading them to obey the Gospel to save their souls from the wrath of God.  God has issued a divine verdict.  He has declared a divine plan.  He has sent forth a divine warning.  He has warned all men everywhere.  God has extended a divine invitation, (Matt. 11:28-30).  He has already provided security and care, (John 10:10, 27, 28).  He has already proclaimed a divine commission, (Matt. 28:19-20).

When Jesus returns it will be a big surprise for most and it won't be a pleasant one.  But for the faithful, it will not be a surprise at all and it won't catch them off guard for he will be prepared. Therefore, let us resolve to be faithful servants always, growing in the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.  Always striving to obey God's truths with a humble heart. Remember we only get one chance at life, (Heb. 9:27).  Don't blow it!!!

How many people examine their lives and come to the conclusion that they are headed for hell?  I am sure the number is small.  Yet, Jesus our Lord taught that many are traveling the broad road that leads to destruction, (Matt. 7:13).  Many deceive themselves into thinking that they are saved and do not consider themselves to be lost.  There is no middle ground between lost and saved!  If one is not saved, then he is lost.  Some are convinced they are saved having accepted the doctrines of men. They teach that salvation is obtained by accepting Jesus as their personal savior and confessing His name.  The Word of God does not teach that doctrine of salvation, (Rom. 6:17)!!  Jesus has given us a number of warnings about the false doctrines that we must avoid, (Matt. 15:8-9; Rev. 2:15). When one accepts error, especially concerning salvation, he will be lost eternally, (Gal. 1:6-9).  God's plan of salvation is easy and is found in the New Testament.  It involves faith, confession, repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  Men's false doctrines about salvation are found nowhere in the Bible.  Take heed!!

Thanks be to God for His inspired writers who revealed to us the Truth about how to truly be saved!! By obeying the Gospel, we can rest assured that we have been saved from sin and will continue to enjoy God's favor as long as we are faithful to Him.  Those who have obeyed the Gospel of Christ have nothing to fear, (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  However, those who are not faithful children of God, do have a reason to fear death and the resurrection of condemnation (i.e., an eternity in hell!).  My prayer is that if you haven't gotten your life right with our Lord yet, that you would please consider obeying God's Word today!!!

Eternity is real and we must accept that we will be either in heaven or hell, eternally.  It will be a direct reflection of how we have lived our lives here on earth.  God wants us to be with Him and has provided everything we need to be in heaven with Him.  The truthfulness of the Word of God assures us there is life after death.  If there is no resurrection, the Bible writers are not trustworthy.  The Bible testifies that Jesus was raised and we will be raised, (1 Cor. 15:13-15).  On the last day, Jesus will raise those who have obeyed His Gospel, having believed in Him.  The Gospel is the power of God to save sinners, (Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:15-16).  Only Christ can save man from sin, (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).  To deny the resurrection removes all assurance of our salvation.  God's grace and justice demand that He reward or punish men according to what they have done in the body, whether good or bad, (Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Cor. 5:10).  And since our God is gracious, He is offering eternal life to those who obey His Son and His plan of salvation.  But because God is just, He must also punish those who do not repent and obey Him.  Knowing that someday we all will die and will be raised to stand before the Judge of all in judgment and receive our eternal reward, heaven or hell, how seriously do we acknowledge this?  Are you ready for death, resurrection and final judgment? Man has only one earthly life and death.  After judgment, men will receive their eternal destinies.  The righteous will receive eternal life, a state of bliss in the presence of God.  On the other hand, the wicked will receive eternal punishment, suffering, and sorrow, separated from God.  How much worse could it be?  Judgment will be fair and just!  It will be based on Truth, (Rom. 2:2).  Men will be judged without partiality, (Rom. 2:11; 1 Peter 1:17).  Judgment will be inescapable, (Rom. 2:3).  It will be universal, (Rom. 2:6, 9, 10; 10:14-12).  It will be individual, (Romans 2:6; 14:12).  It will be thorough.  All aspects of life will be examined, (Rom. 2:7, 8, 9, 10, 16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eccl. 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 12:2).  And it will be final!  The rewards given on that day will be eternal and unalterable, (Rom. 2;7; Matt. 25:46).

Are you preparing for judgment?  Remember the Gospel will judge us.  Therefore, you must obey the Gospel.  Are you ready to face the Judge of all the earth?  Are you ready for the Judgment Day?  

May we never miss heaven, the grandest and most glorious place ever conceived.  May we never miss heaven and the grand reunion with God the Father, Christ, the Son and our Christian family who has preceded us.  May we never take for granted the blood of Christ shed as a sacrifice for us.  May we be found faithful and profitable servants by our Lord and not be cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  May we thirst for righteousness all the days of our lives here on earth and not have to suffer unendingly and unbearably.  May we always obey our Lord to avoid being punished with everlasting destruction away from the presence of our Lord.  May I never miss heaven and be lost forever!  May we always fear God and obey His Truth to receive our final reward, heaven with Jesus in the very presence of God.  May we teach the lost the Gospel of salvation that they may obey the Truth and be ready for Judgment Day.  May we all be ready to face the greatest Judge of all the earth who has promised us to make a fair judgment.

Luci


THERE IS A GREAT DAY COMING

There's a great day coming, 
A great day coming,
There's a great day coming by and by;
When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left,
Are you ready for that day to come?

Chorus:
Are you ready? 
Are you ready?
Are you ready for the judgment day?
Are you ready? 
Are you ready?
For the judgment day?

There's a bright day coming, 
A bright day coming,
There's a bright day coming by and by;
But its brightness shall only come to them that love the Lord,
Are you ready for that day to come?

There's a sad day coming, 
A sad day coming,
There's a sad day coming by and by;
When the sinner shall hear his doom, "Depart, I know ye not,"
Are you ready for that day to come?