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To Hell, that is. Who winds up in Hell? Hell, meaning the Lake of Fire, eternal punishment.
Quite a few will be there, actually.
Matthew 25:41: "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil..."
The Creator of all knew where the history of Earth would lead. He not only foresaw, but fore-ordained, the life work of the one called Satan, the enemy, the devil. In keeping with His plan, He prepared an eternal punishment, fit for one who had come against the Eternal and had tried to stir up others against Him. Eternal fire. Eternal punishment.
2. The verse quoted above mentions other eternally damned creatures that will be in the Lake: all the enemy's angels, the one-third that rebelled with him.
3. Lest anyone think that that is the end of it, throw the enemies in the Lake and they are finished, we are given a more graphic description of what happens to eternal residents of the Lake in Revelation 14:9-11. Along with another category: Worshipers of the antichrist in the tribulation days:
There we are told that these despicables will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
How long? Forever. The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever. Smoke from fire. Fire from burning flesh that refuses to be consumed and so burns more.
No rest, day or night, the text goes on to say. No rest, day or night. Let it sink in. The damned are damned forever.
Where has this teaching gone in seeker-sensitive America? Who has been hiding this awful truth from us? And from the damned themselves!
Where did the idea of "annihilation" creep in? If you think the Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults are the only ones who preach this heresy, think again. It is believed, quietly, by many professing Christians.
Consider Nicky Gumbel, of the Alpha course. Listen to his talk, read his book about the penalties of sin. You will not see listed there anything about the fires of Hell!
Yes, I say that it is believed "quietly." That is, no one will come out and admit such a thing to converts he is trying to bring in. But is keeping this teaching a secret, really a blessing to the unsaved? Did not Jesus teach of eternal punishment openly?
What of those who cannot be wooed into the kingdom? What of those who need a bit of the "stick" when the carrot will not suffice? What of the "fear of the Lord" that is the "beginning of wisdom"? Has the church of the west gone mad in its desire to be "cool"?
The fires of Hell are not cool. Oh what a tragedy if the first one hears of Hell is when he awakens one day in its flames!
Hell is forever. If annihilation is meant by Jesus, then many Christian martyrs have suffered Hell's punishment. A man could burn his house down accidentally with a midnight cigarette, only to find that he has caused his own Hell.
Why will bodies be resurrected, per Jesus in John 5, to a resurrection of damnation, only to be burned to cinders in a few minutes?
Hell is forever.
4. But there are more. Surely the devil and the man he possesses at the end of history. Surely all his angels. Surely all his end-time worshipers. But, back to Matthew. Jesus says that although the fire was originally made for the devil and his heavenly followers, it will be large enough to include all his earthly ones, too. Not just the tribulation sinners. Everyone who did not know Jesus is here condemned. These will go away into everlasting punishment, v. 46.
Jesus introduces nothing new here. The world has been operating under a justified curse since the Garden of Eden. All have sinned and all deserve whatever God decides is just. And since sinning means the same rebellion that infected the heavenly creatures, the same punishment is meted out to earthlings.
Unlike the conclusion of the ungodly "Noah" of the 2014 movie by that name, there is one exception to that rule. The blood of Jesus Christ takes the curse away from a remnant of grace, names of whom are known only by the Father, and revealed to the individuals themselves in the course of their lives here.
We cower not at the rude questions of fallen man about "why" so many will be cursed for so long, even those who never heard the name of Jesus. We add not to the Scripture as do some unscrupulous men of our modern pulpits, saying that the name of Jesus may not be necessary after all if the heart is right.
The heart is not right nor can it ever be. If there be a man somewhere in whom the Spirit of God is moving and preparing a home for Himself, that same Spirit will bring a Peter or Paul to come soon knocking at his door. How many the stories of saved men from tribes everywhere that echo this theme. "I saw a white man in a dream, and he had a book in his hand," the stories go.
God will save the number that has been recorded in the heavenlies. And He will do it by the Name of Jesus. For there is no other name whereby a man can be saved! No man comes to the Father but by Jesus.
The job of the church is to listen and be sure to go where God says to go to find that man or woman or child. There may be mass conversions. There may be whole cities saved or lost by our preaching, but go we must. We may be Jonah or Nahum at Nineveh, but the call must be obeyed. God's plan involves the salvation of the elect and none other.
All others have chosen the way of death from the days of Eden. They have chosen to rebel with Satan against the Creator and Saviour. Their punishment is just.
It will be an awful thing. Fiery Torment. No rest. Forever. Jesus described it in Mark 9 (quoting Isaiah 66) as a place where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
I like the literal interpretation whenever possible. The Pulpit commentary gives it very succinctly:
"Ordinarily the worm feeds upon the disorganized body, and then dies. The fire consumes the fuel, and then itself expires. But here the worm never dies; the fire never goes out."
How can this be? Resurrected bodies. They are made to withstand eternal punishment even as the believers' new bodies will be prepared for eternal glory. Think not of things as they are but of things as they shall be when God's promises are fulfilled.
Can you see it now? The condemned but eternal body is pitched into the lake burning with fire and brimstone, a lake that is forever self-fed in the way we saw on international television the fuel fires of Iraq when the bombs were falling there. The body is somehow decayed by worms created for this very time. But the worms will have an eternal feast for they will never die. They will be ready to feast on that same body forever.
The church has grown soft and afraid to teach these horrors, warning people of their eternal destiny if they do not repent. We are comfortable and lukewarm, falling into the Laodicean mold to the extent that our own souls may be in more danger than we know.
Oh awake, church of God, awake. Believe the truth. Tell it to others.
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