Tag Archives: Hell

Living by What “Seems Right”

There have been certain sins throughout history which have been so wickedly horrific that I’m quite certain the vast majority of people today would not even consider committing them. For instance, can you imagine sacrificing your daughter to an idol by burning her alive? Of course not, and neither could the Israelites when they first entered the Promised Land. And yet, a few hundred years passed, and sure enough…

“When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.” Ezekiel 20:31 (ESV)

Such is the shaping power of culture. What was at one time absolutely impossible to imagine…became reality. Sacrificing a child suddenly “seemed the right thing” to do, simply because it was the cultural norm.

God’s Response

What’s fascinating to note in Ezekiel 20 is God’s response to this wickedness. He said they would not be able to “inquire” of Him. In other words, no relationship. And so it was that idolatry, introduced through exposure to a wicked culture, destroyed any meaningful relationship they had with the One True God.

What We Lose by Adopting Cultural Beliefs

Of course, the same thing happens in our culture, only with different issues. The people of God today constantly find themselves under pressure to modify their beliefs and practices toward what “seems right”. But what I have realized recently is that adopting these cultural beliefs and practices has an unintended consequence: the loss of a vital relationship with God. We can no longer inquire of Him. This makes sense considering Israel’s experience under Ezekiel, but also because in order to adopt many cultural beliefs, one must reject Scripture, which is, of course, God’s Word to us. How can I have a vital relationship with someone who does not speak to me?

The Stepford Wives…the Stepford God

The lesson here is clear: while we will all be shaped to some degree by culture, we must be sure to let God’s Word have the final say (Romans 12:2).  Along these lines, one of my favorite Tim Keller illustrations comes from his book, The Reason for God:

“If we let our unexamined beliefs undermine our confidence in the Bible, the cost may be greater than we think.

“If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you. For example, if a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they won’t have an intimate relationship. Remember the (two!) movies The Stepford Wives? The husbands of Stepford, Connecticut, decide to have their wives turned into robots who never cross the wills of their husbands. A Stepford wife was wonderfully compliant and beautiful, but no one would describe such a marriage as intimate or personal.

“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination.”

– Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Therefore, only a real relationship with God can save us from being wrongly shaped by culture and what “seems right”. And not surprisingly, such a relationship with God only comes from a thorough commitment to Scripture as authoritative.

For as the history of the Israelites teaches us, if we abandon God’s Word, the fire is never far away.


Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


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The Smoke of Their Torment Forever

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


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Posted by on December 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Day No One Will Forget

The Best Day of Your Life

If you are a Christian, the best day of your life is coming:

…we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 (ESV)

On this day you will see a vision, called the beatific vision by theologians, which will so fill you with joy that you will be transformed into His likeness. Indeed, even considering what this vision will do to you today is transforming:

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:3 (ESV)

The Worst Day of Your Life

Here’s the awful thing, though –  the unbeliever will also have a vision, the same vision of Christ. But in contrast, this vision will be the worst day of his life. Consider the soldiers who crucified Christ and then followed through with their attendant duties. John writes that there is coming a day in their lives which these men will remember through eternity:

And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” John 19:37 (ESV)

Someday, those soldiers will see Jesus, and they will know. With all the gut-wrenching agony of regret and remorse, they will know that they tortured and killed the Son of God. And they will pay for it in eternity. But it’s not just them, as John writes in the last book of the Bible:

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7 (ESV)

Every eye will see Him, and there will be no middle ground. There will be no human being who will say after that day, “Ho hum. I don’t remember much about the first time I saw Jesus.” Not going to happen. You see, there are no part-time, “sorta, kinda” Christians. You’re in, or you’re out. You love Him, or you don’t.

On that day, there will only be two groups of people – those in total, rapturous joy….and those in total remorse and agony.

Which group will you be in?

For tomorrow, Friday, October 30th: John 20


Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Cute Little Sinners?

We tend to think little thoughts about sin.  In other words, we tend to think that sin is not such a big deal, as if we were two-year-olds being disarmingly disobedient before our Heavenly Daddy. You know: “Oh, isn’t he cute the way he smiles that impish smile and walks the other way when I tell him to come here?”

But Scripture teaches us something entirely different. Consider R.C. Sproul’s word from his classic work, The Holiness of God:

“Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.”

No, sin isn’t cute, and if anything should lead us to understand sin as “cosmic treason”, Jesus’s teaching in Mark chapter 9 should get us there. In some of his starkest teaching in all the gospels, Jesus says…

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42 (ESV)

Apparently, you would be better to die a horrible death by drowning than to entice a little child to sin. But wait, what exactly would be worse than drowning, or death in general, for that matter?  The answer is clear from the next verse: Hell. The millstone warning in verse 42 makes no sense unless you interpret it with the verses that follow.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, Mark 9:43-47 (ESV)

Hear this: Jesus is saying that Hell is a real possibility for people, that real people go there, and that real people are in torment there even as you read this now. And, gracious Savior that He is, Jesus tells us exactly what causes people to go to Hell…sin.

These verses have been misunderstood for 2,000 years, but surely their message is more than clear.  It’s certainly not that Jesus wants us to dismember ourselves. It is rather that He wants us to…TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY. He wants us to be careful not to trifle with it…not to think of it as “2-year-old cute.”  In fact, for instance, if you have a 2 year old, don’t even think of their sin and disobedience as cute. Obviously, wisdom is needed to discern whether they know right from wrong, but once you are sure they do, their disobedience is no longer cute, any more than yours is.  It is cosmic treason, all of it.  And all of us need to consider our own sin and the sin of others as dangerous, for sin sends people to everlasting Hell every moment of every day.

We must take sin seriously, but even when we do, our hands and feet will still lead us into sin more times than we would like to admit, so what hope do we have short of dismembering ourselves? Well, of course, the Christian message is that we hope in the One Who did not cut off His hands and feet, but allowed them to be pierced through for us. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus literally took sin, and took it very seriously, so that those of us who trust in Him might never fear its horrible ramifications again.

“Man of Sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim…Hallelujah, What a Savior!!!”


Tomorrow, Friday, April 24: Mark 10


Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


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