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Resurrection! Unbelievers to Eternal Torment

August 9, 2009

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” Matthew 25:41-46.

All people will be in eternity at the end of the age. Those who belong to Christ will share eternal life in Heaven. Those who do not know Christ will share eternal torment in Hell. There are many jokes about Hell in our culture. Few treat the possibility of eternal torment in Hell with any seriousness. More people would be seeking ways to avoid hell if they knew the reality of the torment that awaits those who do not belong to Christ.

The Greek Bible word we translate as Hell is gehenna. The word derives from the Greek word for the Valley of Bin Hinnom in which idolatrous Israelites offered child sacrifices to the idols Molech and Baal (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6, Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:2-6). The Greek word gehenna conjures images of burning bodies, bones, fires and birds tearing flesh from rotting bodies. A place where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”. As graphic as this imagery is, it is just a symbol of the fullness of God’s wrath against the unbeliever. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

Some people think of hell as separation from God. This is comforting to the non-Christian who wants to be separated from God. R.C Sproul says that the problem is that in hell people will not be separated from God, but that in fact God will be present and will carry out the fullness of his wrath against those who reject him. He goes on to conclude that the most horrifying thing about hell is its eternality. We can endure much if we know there is a limit to the suffering. People have endured dreadful things in life knowing that their suffering would eventually end. There is no such hope in hell. Jesus says of hell “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”. (John 5:28-29)

Christ spoke more about the horrors of hell than the delight of heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his followers more than six times about hell including the use of such hyperbole such as in Mark 9:47-48 where Jesus said “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”. In the Olivet Discourse Christ repeatedly warned his followers of the judgment that is to come “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:31-34). Jesus goes on to say “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 46).

The concept of choice leads us to believe that there must be a hell. If there were no choice, then some would be dragged off to heaven against their will. Having no choice in the matter would make us like puppets of God doing whatever he willed for us to do. Furthermore, without choice there could be no love. A loving god does not force himself on humanity but rather voluntarily suffers rejection by those he created. Common sense also helps us realize that there must be a difference in eternal consequences. It would not be right for Hitler and Mother Theresa to receive the same eternal outcome.

What about you?

This is my last post on the reality and evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus. If you are still unconvinced of the reality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, I invite you to comment. If you want a continuing or private dialogue then see my skeptics’ page. If requested, I would be happy to continue one on one dialogues offline. One thing each of us must do is choose whether we believe in Jesus as Savior or not. Our eternal destiny depends on our choice. Will you deny Christ or choose him as your Lord and Savior? “If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

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