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The Persecuted Church

 

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One of the most common beliefs that we have today is a belief in an afterlife and in most religions there is a heaven. If one were to ask at random, people outside Christianity, where they will go after death, almost unanimously, it's heaven. And while heaven is each person's preference, we know that this isn't true. Everyone is not going to be able to go there. One of the most repugnant subjects is the opposite end, which is hell. Is there a Hell? In a survey several years ago to thousands of churches one of the questions asked was do they believe in hell. This question rated below 50% in most of the mainline churches and this was among the ministers, which is very surprising. Hell is a place no one likes to talk about, much less go there, however, Jesus spoke more on hell than on heaven and had very strong warnings to keep people He loved from going there.

As Christians, we are constantly to challenged to prove what we believe, not only from the Bible but with logic and rationale. How many times have you heard, "How can a loving God send people to hell?" or "I can't believe in a place of everlasting punishment." I personally encounter this a lot and I'm going to attempt to give some reasons why not only is hell a reality as much as heaven is, but that God's love actually demands a place such as this.

Jesus spoke more about hell than all the writers of Scripture. 13% of the New Testament is on Judgment and hell, and half of the parables.

Hell is describe as a place of constant fire and smoke. Now I think we're all familiar with the descriptive terms of fire that continues to burn, where the worm does not die and that it's outer darkness, as in Matt 25:30 "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Away from the presence of God. In Mt.13:49-50 Jesus tells us the angels will separate the wicked from the just and cast them into the furnace of fire. Hell is described as a garbage dump by Jesus to illustrate some points (this is called Gehenna where the corpses of animals were thrown. As complete darkness Mt.8:12 "cast into outer darkness."

Where exactly does the Bible say hell is? The Bible describes it as down, Psalm 55:15 Proverbs 15:24, Isaiah 14:9 speak of it being beneath. The angels that sinned in Noah’s day were cast down 2 Pt.2:4. Many other Scriptures describe it as underneath, while God is up in heaven. Heaven is upward, hell is down. It's also described as outer darkness, yet, God is described as light. These are relational terms of contrast, yet, they are literal. It's a place at the end of the road that everyone travels on, going away from God. It's also described as a bottomless pit, no security. It's like free falling forever.

Jude describes hell like a wandering star in the blackness forever, no course or direction, no end. Luke 16 is not a parable but a story, it uses  name that no parables use and it is giving specific information about the afterlife. It tells us it's a place of agony and self rejection, the rich man asked for only a drop of water to quench his insatiable thirst. He still had concern for his family and felt pain for himself.  It's described by the rich man in his remorse asking to warn his family, yet he is told they will not believe even if someone (Jesus) would rise from the dead and tell them so. This is how great their unbelief was! We see the rich men is still giving orders telling Abraham to send Lazarus,  who was an invalid in life and the rich man did not care at all for , now he asking him to do him a favor. The word torment is used 4 times in Luke 16 and it is use many other places. 

Hell is not just a place deprived of God's presence or blessing. Where does the Bible describe hell as a torture chamber? Well, actually it doesn't. It's not Dante's Inferno with Devils poking people with pitchforks. God is not into torturing people himself either (neither is the devil, or the fallen angels as they will be in torment too). Those who go there choose to go in rejection of God's love, and the agony they will have is self inflicted as a direct, and deliberate decision to go away from Him because they hate His authority. They do not want his rulership over their lives. It is like a child not listening to its parent who tells them not to go near the stove when its hot, they don't listen and get burned. God doesn't want anyone to go there and has done what He can to keep people from going there but they have exercised the choice not to listen.  

Hell was made for the devil and his angels, it was not first intended for man. In Rev. 14:10-11 it describes their experience, "he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." This describes the final location of the devil and those who followed him willingly or by being deceived.

Once someone is there it's final, there's no second chance. It is a prison (Mt.18:6-9) where no one escapes. It is also described as everlasting punishment. The Greek for everlasting (aiones) means always, continually, a forever concept. If those of us who received Christ as our substitute for our sin have everlasting life with Him, then those who will suffer away from Christ will have eternal suffering. The same word for eternal is used for both the wicked suffering and the just living with God. If the punishment of the wicked is only temporary as cessasionists say, then there will come a day when God will no longer exist! Because the same descriptive term is used for eternal life and eternal punishment is used for the eternal God. The dead are in heaven worshipping God proving that they still exist without their bodies and those who are dead in hell are cognizant and able to feel as well.

Hell has been called cruel and inhumane punishment, barbarous. Bertrand Russell, the famous philosopher, said, "Anyone who threatens someone with eternal punishment is inhumane." Now we know Jesus did warn people, so what Russell is doing, is, claiming that Jesus is inhumane for pointing people to their only chance of survival.

Walter Kauffman, a Princeton scholar, in his Critique of Religion and Philosophy said, "We wouldn't think much of a father who tormented his children for disobedience to him. What would we think of someone who tormented hundreds of thousands of people. some of whom never knew how to escape, and he did that forever?"

Now the subject of hell seems medieval, unrealistic. Nietzsche, in The Genealogy of Morals said if he were given the choice of willing nothing or not willing at all, he would choose nothingness than to not will at all. In other words, if Nietzsche stood before God and God said I'll give you three choices: Nietzsche bow down and worship me of your own free will and apologize about all those things you said of me, or two, go on thinking the way you want to, or three, I'm going to snuff you out of existence, which one would Nietzsche choose? He would choose his own philosophy, his own thinking forever rather than annihilation. You see annihilation is not the answer to evil. 

Death is the great equalizer,  and it gives no second chances for anyone. For those who decide on their rejection are solidified in it after they leave this life.

INCREMENTS OF Punishment in

There was recently a report produced by the Doctrine of Commission of the Church of England titled "The Mystery of Salvation," and on addressing the doctrine of heaven and hell, hell was described as non being, in other words, annihilation. This can only come from disguising the literal words of Scripture to mean something other than they plainly mean. And it's not unusual for those inside the evangelical church to question the concept of eternal punishment. While we may wrestle with this, we have to eventually submit to the Scriptures and what they clearly state. They teach  greater and lesser punishments for the works of the wicked and what they've done (Matthew 25:46, 2 Peter 2:9). All speak of the day of reckoning of judgment. Punishment will be dealt with different increments Would it be fair of God to inflict on everyone even people that did good the same punishment as the Devil or the false prophets. Would it be fair if a regular person was punished just as Hitler who killed indiscriminately. No of course not! God is just and will meet each with a fair judgment. God making man in his image refutes the concept of annihilationism as he would be using man as means to an end. Both those in heaven and hell have the same eternal life that is contained as a property of mans soul.

Have you ever had a pebble in your shoe irritating you, that it made you completely uncomfortable? Hell will not be this kind of pain, it will be much worse for the soul.

Luke 12:46-48 tells us the difference between servants who obeyed and disobeyed, Where one will be given few stripes another many in punishment. For the Pharisees who took advantage of widows and showed off their religion publicly they will receive the greater condemnation. Mt.23:14.

Heb. 10:28-29: "Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? The law was to bring one to Christ to reject its testimony of showing ones sin is to reject Christ who died for the sin.

Luke 12:4-5: "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him , who after he has killed, has power to cast into hell, yes, I say to you, fear Him!" Jesus is saying the death f the body is not the end of ones existence.

Matt. 11:23-24: "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." All these statements show that God will treat all in judgment with different degrees of punishment.

Some claim that the lake of fire is just a illustration of the grave and the dead go there. The best example of this not being true is the beast and the false prophet are thrown in the lake of fire alive Revelation 19:20-21. Clearly showing this is not the grave of the dead. Satan is later captured by an angel and bound captive being put in the worst part of this location.

While there are some groups and cults that say God annihilates people, that they somehow cease to exist after they die, this teaching is clearly unbiblical. The antichrist who is a man is resurrected after he is killed by Jesusí second coming and then cast into the abyss (hell). In Rev. 20:7 Satan is alive and  spends 1,000 years only to be let out again to lead one last rebellion and to be judged proving this is not annihilation. The angels who sinned in the time of Noah, are held in reserve in chains for judgment in the abyss (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). They clearly are waiting for judgment day. Obviously they do exist as spirits and so does man after he dies. God does not annihilate people, He respects the creatures he created and their own choice so much that he will never take their life away. He's not going to take their consciousness away either because they didn't go His way. The question comes up, if He doesn't annihilate, why doesn't He just reform them instead of punish them when they're disobedient? C. S. Lewis wrote, "To be cured against one's will is to be put on a level with those who have not reached the age of reason." It's like being classed with infants and domestic animals. To be punished ever severely because we have deserved it, that we should know better, it is to treat us as humans made in God's image. It is immoral to force reformation on someone against their will so a reformatory concept is really what is inhumane. Punishment is the most humane and loving thing God can do. Justice demands punishment for those who hurt others and break eternal laws. There is no eternal reformatory, but there is a temporary one which is called life. In a lifetime, if one does not reform, repent and go God's way, then the day of reformation is over and the day of justice and punishment begins, which will last longer than a billion lifetimes.
 "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27)

Matt 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." This word destroy is not used in physical sense but bringing to ruin what one once had.

Or when the demon possessed man cried out Matt 8:29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, "What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time? "Again in another incident a demon asks, "I beg you, do not torment me! Vs. 31"And they begged him that he would not command them to out into the abyss." So even the spirits who once knew God are afraid to go to this place.

Rev 20:10 "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." it clearly does not say annihilated!

II Thess. 1:8-9: "in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. flames2.lg.gif (22196 bytes) These shall be punished with everlasting  destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," while this word can mean death, in its context it means ruin or punishment because of the clearer definitions of punishment used elsewhere.

Hell is an eternal penal institution with no release. Eternal sin must be treated justly with eternal consequences. Since sin is against an eternal God and sin's effects are also eternal, the punishment therefore must have eternal consequences. So we find that hell is part of God's justice which is just as important as God's love. And to understand God's justice we first need to understand that a law without any consequences is just good advice. If there is a moral standard that God sets it's for a reason. It is then an absolute standard because it relates to His character and His being, and it's from His very nature that this standard flows. One can receive mercy as  a pardon for what they have done or refuse it and get the punishment they deserve.

If one steals from you, the law and justice of Gods law demands an equal pay back. The Bible says if one sheds man's blood (murder) justice demands that that person pays with his own life under God's law, yet, there is God's grace and mercy. However, if one rejects the eternal God's just payment for our sins which is tied in with His grace and mercy, they themselves must pay that eternal price for that sin, and not all sins are paid back in this life, but some follow afterwards. If one is punished for a crime against their own fellow man here on earth by our human Government which are not perfectly just, how much more of a judgment awaits those with God's perfect standard in heaven? If they refuse His grace in Christ what else is left? An example would be, if one were to goof-off and party all the time while they were in school at the end of the year would they expect the teacher to pass them? Is that fair? Would one go to work and goof-off all day long, in front of all the other people working, and expect to get paid like everyone else? Would that be fair and just? Of course not. So, if we don't do that in our society, and we have our own criteria for living and a second standard for ethics, how much more does God have a criteria and a standard for how we are to live? And how much more will His punishment be for those who disobey HIM?

We can see the wicked prosper in our world today and justice is not paid by those who live this wicked type of lifestyle that the Bible condemns, so there must be a time when it will be paid and justice will prevail. God has put off the judgment until a certain time. So we all, good or bad, in Christ or not, are enjoying the benefits of His time of grace. It's by His mercy, the Bible says, that each and every day, we are not consumed. Paul says all are under condemnation and are without excuse in Rom. 1 he continues in Chpt.2 by saying we are all guilty of the same we judge others of. Rom 2:2-9 "But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality, but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness-- indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil,"…

Now, those who refuse God's love in this life will be totally out of place in heaven. Consider people canít stand hearing about God and Jesus Christ in conversation with you now and these same people and these same people end up in heaven with us praising God for his work? Imagine those who hate to worship God, hate going to church and learning about Him, and then they end up in heaven in an eternal church meeting with everyone else loving God, who are thanking him for saving them from their sins. Now this would be hell for them. They're more apt to be comfortable away from God then with Him. If they look with disdain on what He's all about now and do not want to love Him now, how will they be able to love Him later? God's solution will be to give them what they want. God will not violate the free will of a person and force his convictions to change. He does not force people to modify their beliefs and behavior to coerce them into the kingdom. God works through man's dignity, not violating it. Our choices have consequences and sometimes they're eternal consequences.

God's love demands a hell. Imagine a man proposing to a woman in marriage and the woman refuses saying I respect you, I admire you, but I am not going to marry you. Then he comes to her and proposes to her again and she declines. He comes to her again and proposes and she declines. And then the man says I love you so much I'm going to force you to marry me. That relationship would not be operating by love, forced love is really not love at all. God's love is persuasive, it's convincing, but it's never coercive. He's not going to put your arm behind your back and force you to do what's right. He's going to allow you to have the freedom of choice, yet he will give you all the proof one needs to be convinced that He is love. This love is also perfect in justice, and God is longsuffering in His love, patient, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. So the choice is really up to us, it's ours to make. It's an eternal choice which we cannot change once we die. There are no shotgun weddings in heaven, but there will be a great divorce for those who refuse to enter into a vow and a covenant with God and Christ as their husband. If there is no heaven to gain or hell to shun, justice would not prevail in the universe. If there is no final judgment there is no Hell. The Bible teaches the dead will be raised to give an account and then punished. So there has to be a final separation for wickedness. We find evil is unable to be contained, it's easily spread. This cannot be said for godliness, which is not easily spread.

We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth at which time evil will cease. Evil will be totally removed from those of us who are going God's way, who love God, and who have been born again into His kingdom. Sin has taken its effect on this world and its people and we are told in Scripture that all creation groans in travail for the day when all this will be removed. Hell shows the nature of sin and the great cost of salvation, it shows the very love of God. By the cross we see how hideous sin is and how much more powerful God's love is. This is the very reason that Jesus died, to save people from their sins. Death is the penalty of sin, the body dies and the soul becomes separate from the creator who gave them life. If there is no eternal consequences to sin then the crucifixion is robbed of its very significance. Jesus suffered in vain and it would not have been necessary for Him to die for our sins. Yet, God the father said there is no other way, that Christ is the only way. Jesus, who was truth incarnate, warned us, if your hand offends you, cut it off, it was better for you to go to heaven maimed than to go to the unquenchable fire whole, or with two arms, speaking with a hyperbole, using extreme examples to make the point how serious it is. Was He putting a non-existent fear in us for over nineteen hundred years? Of course not. Fear can actually be a good motivation because it leads to the preservation of one's life or soul. The Bible tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, that if we want to understand what wisdom and knowledge is, it begins with a healthy respect and fear of God because He is in control and he deals justly. However we need to be as the evangelist D. L. Moody who said, when we speak of Hell, have a tear in your eye and a quiver in your voice.

If one denies the existence of hell and the doctrine of eternal punishment, they are actually denying the teachings of Jesus. Jesus affirmed that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, and He also affirmed that there was a flood that covered the whole earth, and He said that Adam and Eve were really created. So we must take His teaching on Hell as literal also if all these other teachings are literal.

Donít certain evil people deserve judgment such as Adolph Hitler or Osama Bin Laden. They can escape mans law, but they, nor no one else who ever lived will escape breaking God's law.  If there is no Hell you can do whatever you want and there will be absolutely no consequences for it. There will be no difference for a Hitler or a Saddam Hussain and the non-believer or atheist. Hell is the only thing that satisfies the demand for the ultimate justice. The ultimate triumph of good over evil demands such a place as hell. The thing that bothers good people is evil and the thing that bothers evil people is good. When good people are around those who are doing evil it frustrates them, it stumbles them, because they know what is right from wrong. Evil people who are around good people that are trying to do what is right in the Lord's eyes (are stumbled because we are salt and they actually end up saying terrible things about God because of the way we live.) God has a solution for this dilemma, a final separation of good and evil, a place where no evil can bother good people. For those who have rejected the Lord, there will be no more good people to frustrate them, they won't be around them anymore. What is hell going to be like? We are not dealing with a physical fire because it is affecting anon physical entity, mans spirit. One thing for sure Hell is not a place of eternal sunburn. The Bible describes it as darkness, loneliness, thirst, torment, a place where we would not want even our enemies to go to.

Torment is not torture. It is to be separated from God's love and goodness for an eternity. Today before one is saved from their sins they are already separated from God in relationship, but not in certain respects from his goodness or grace. Those who will be there will become acutely aware of their creatureness and fallen state. They will know their sin and its effect on themselves as they are self afflicted. They will understand their selfish ways and self idolatry and will gnash their teeth. They will understand there is a God and experience eternal judgment for their sins. Their whole consciousness will be engulfed in their sinfulness and they will not be able to get away from their nature. It will be like an itch and not being able to scratch it. It will be a mental and emotional torture that they will not be able to be removed. It will be darkness with no relief .

God knows that no one who goes to eternal separation and punishment would really change their mind, they are bent on their own way. Only those who are unretrieveable, unrepentant, unredeemable, those who have their one way decision, with an irreversible mind set will be there. Yet hell is more than just eternal separation from God! Everyone who is a sinner, the devil and his angels are presently separated from God and they enjoy it. They are in this state now and not in hell. While hell is separation this is only one aspect of the consequences of going there. Hell is not the absolute final punishment for those who refused to turn from ruling and ruining their own lives with their own sin nature. In Rev.20 we find the small and great from all time standing before the throne resurrected in the bodies they committed their sins in only to face a greater terror. What they received prior in torment in their spirit will be even more. Luke16 tells us about a chasm that was wide enough that neither one from either Abraham's paradise or those from hell could cross. But then after Christ raised the chasm became even wider where they could not view each other. So it will be to those who are eternally separated. 

What of those go to hell never hearing the Gospel. Well, actually, there's probably been billions of people from all time that went to their eternal destiny without Christ. And today we're surrounded by people who will do the same. People who are now in hell were once alive like you and I. They had the chance to make the same choice that we have today. God never sent anyone there except those that reject the light that they already have, all people have a witness and are without an excuse. Romans 1:19 & 20 and Romans 2:12 tells us about God's witness in creation. So everyone has creation as a testimony that God exists, and are without  excuse. The Biblical principle is sequential for God to reveal himself to all people. First all people are surrounded by creation, they have a conscience within them. If they do not respond to the light they already have, God is not responsible to give them more light. Yet, it one responds to the knowledge that the Lord has given them, they will be led out of the darkness into His kingdom, His marvelous light. It's our choice to respond either to the general revelation that is all around us or to the specific revelation which is His word, God pleads with people who are going the opposite way to turn toward Him and become reconciled to Him through His Son's death. When we open our eyes in the next life it will only reflect what we have done from this one. We can either bless Him for His grace or despise him for the judgment we brought upon ourselves.

If only the bad people go to hell and the good go to heaven then we all go to hell for the Scripture says there is none that are good, no not one (Rom.3). So how does one escape their punishment for sin and rebellion of not submitting to the God who loves them? By Believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hell is avoidable for everyone. Just a as a doctor offers you a cure for a disease, if you refuse to take, you cannot blame it on him, its not his fault you are sick but it is your fault that you are not well. Jesus offers everyone the cure for the disease of sin, God is working to get your attention to take it.

(go here for the gospel

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