And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 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. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Revelation 14:9-11 (ESV)
Hell is a dreadful reality, almost impossible to imagine, and yet the Bible speaks of it in many places, and here in Revelation 14 we see Hell’s eternal nature: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night…”
Through the history of the church, there have been a small minority of people who have argued for the once for all destruction of non-believers, rather than their eternal suffering. I really wish I could believe it, but I can’t find this teaching in the Bible. So, all in all, I think reverential awe is called for when we contemplate the potentiality of this dreadful place.
But isn’t an eternal Hell an unreasonable punishment?
In his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper says, “Degrees of blameworthiness come not from how long you offend dignity but from how high the dignity is that you offend.” And then Piper quotes the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards…
“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligation to love, and honor, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty. Our obligation to love, honor and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority. . . . But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. . . . So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment. . . . The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite . . . and therefore renders no more than proportionable to the heinousness of what they are guilty of.”
In the end, the doctrine of Hell means that we take very seriously a number of other truths, starting with the infinite holiness of God, and moving on to the importance of evangelism.
We must recognize God in the perfection of His holiness, and we must boldly tell the world about their great need to be reconciled to this Holy and Eternal One.
For Tuesday, December 22: Revelation 15