Hell

 (Reproduced from the lead article in The Call, 2004 issue 3)

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:24-30

In recent years a British politician was scoffed at for suggesting that many of the problems in modern society could be ascribed to people’s no longer believing in hell.

The subject of everlasting torment as a punishment for rejection of God’s salvation is, it is true, rather glossed over by most people. Even many who are counted believers would hesitate to mention it. It seems that the world can grasp the idea of God, but not the idea of the consequences of rejecting Him.

Many of those who do talk most loudly about hell do so in fruitless arguments about whether it is an actual “place” or can be described more as a “state”. They do not know how closely they themselves skirt the lip of the abyss! What matters is that hell is real.

That “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17] is the bad news that we have to hear, in order to know how good the Good News of Salvation really is. Without the news that God is entitled to punish us for all eternity, the news that He will show us mercy is meaningless.

It is particularly necessary to consider the risks that we run, in these evil, Godless times, when a day does not go by without someone being done to death, somewhere in the world.

Christ makes this plain when He says, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” [Matthew 26:52]. And yet some of the world’s greatest professors of belief in Him go to war or – sometimes this seems so much worse – send others to war while they stay thousands of miles away, or at most visit “safe” parts of the war zone. They can see that many, many people have taken up the sword, or its modern equivalent, who plainly die at home with their boots off!

Yet beware! Consider what it may mean to perish by the sword. They that take the sword have condemned themselves, as Christ Himself testifies, and therefore it is by the sword that they have taken up that they have perished. Christ makes it plainer, by His revelation to John: “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword” [Revelation 13:10]. Could prophecy be plainer?

Fear of death rules the world – and how mankind’s adversary loves that. Powerful men, whether backed up by the machinery of government and the money of wealthy supporters, or by fanatical, quasi-mystical philosophy, play on these false, shadowy nightmares, in order to get a grip upon the hearts and minds of people. Thus they drag them down to hell with them.

But the Christ is clear about whom we must fear: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” [Luke 12:4,5]. This refers to the pure fear of God, before whom every soldier, every general, every Commander-in-Chief, and every fanatic with explosives strapped to his body must bow.

And now we learn more profoundly what it is to perish with the sword. Christ says, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” [Matthew 10:34]. And this was revealed to John: “The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” [Revelation 19:14-16]. Here is the revelation of the sword by which all they that take up an earthly sword, or gun, or bomb shall perish.

Isn’t it strange that so many people around the world have the Holy Name of God upon their lips, and a weapon in their hand? The prophetic message must be made plain to them. Christ’s own words must ring in their ears, and in their hearts: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 7:21]. And they must face the fact that they must repent: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” [Revelation 2:16].  They must hear and obey the Voice of the Shepherd, or one day they will hear His irrevocable words: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” {Matthew 7:23].

In the long run, objectors to the doctrine of hell must answer this question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins, and at all costs to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty, and offering every miraculous help? But he has done so – in the life and death of his Son. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, that is what he does.” [The Problem of Pain, C S Lewis]

Friends, be patterns and examples to the world. Carry the love and fear of the Lord with you. Proclaim, sparing no action or word, the fate that awaits every nation that forgets God, and the promise of Salvation to all who will become His nation. Teach the people of the world, by yourselves living in Christ’s peaceable Kingdom, that they must lay down their arms, if they want to be saved; they must learn to hazard their lives, unprotected, unafraid, prepared to die loving their friends, and forgiving their enemies. The alternative – the eternal alternative – is too terrible to contemplate!

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